Madeleine Babiolakis’ insights and reflections

Madeleine Babiolakis’ insights and reflections from the last year in business

Blog post by Madeleine Babiolakis

18th April, 2023

This week marks exactly 12 months since leaving full time employment to work for myself.

No amount of planning can really prepare you for the jump.

Withstanding the fact that it really is quite hard, the move to consulting and facilitating has brought opportunities to work across more than I’d ever thought possible in 12 months.

From technology companies shaping online education and government championing community engagement, to tackling skills and careers shortages, and working alongside boards and executive teams, the projects have been diverse and complex.  

And most importantly, aligned to the driving force behind Shape & Impact – helping purpose-led organisations and leaders deliver strategy and change with long-lasting positive impact.

In the first few months, I wrote a lot about plans for the future.

This time, it’s looking back on three cross-cutting industry insights and three personal reflections.

Because everything in strategy (or so I’ve been taught) is better in threes! 


·       Scale and level of engagement – the size and scope of stakeholders that leaders have to consider and engage with is only growing in volume and complexity. Alignment continues to be a great challenge and the importance of authenticity, and truly listening and learning from stakeholders (or customers depending on your industry) cannot be understated. 

·       Importance of “soft” skills that aren’t really soft – there isn’t a leadership forum that I’ve been in this year where AI and ChatGPT hasn’t been brought up. But there’s also acknowledgement that it won’t fully replace being able to communicate, and the gaps continuing to emerge in the workplace and within teams around these core skills needing to be addressed.

·       Power of partnership and collaboration – it’s not a new revelation that impact can be scaled through collaboration, but increasingly partnership and community is being demonstrated as critical in addressing systemic strategic issues such as skills shortages, affordability of education and equality in leadership. 


·       Embrace the career portfolio – The movement behind building up skills and experience across different areas and roles, including on boards, makes me so excited. I find it hard to describe what my job is in a couple of words and I can see more people, particularly women, embracing this opportunity and expanding the trajectory of their careers. 

·       Know your boundaries and grow through discomfort – Early on, I was advised working for yourself is really just wading through discomfort and trying to stay out of panic stations. Naturally this can be about cash flow and the time you have available. For me, it also related to struggles with putting myself out there. Having new photos* – a couple of which are copied above – is something I actively avoided for 12 months and waded through discomfort to share!

·       Remember your why and stay true to your values – If you know me well, you will know my parents left everything to move to Australia from Zimbabwe when I was 11. I’ve been motivated to make the most of this opportunity every day since. On the tough days, I remind myself of the privilege of playing a very small part in helping exceptional organisations and leaders have great impact. 

Looking ahead, I’m most excited about new work in the leadership space both in terms of reaching larger volumes of people, and partnering with more teams leading amidst growing uncertainty.

For now, a big thank you to every client, partner, colleague and mentor (who might not even know they were a mentor). You have truly made the last 12 months more fulfilling that I could have hoped.  

If you’re reading this and would like to find out more, please check out or reach out to me directly via LinkedIn.

Otherwise, I really appreciate you making it to the end of the article!

*With many thanks to Josie De-Sousa Reay.

About the Author

Madeleine Babiolakis is the founder of Shape & Impact, a consulting and advising practice helping purpose-led organisations and leaderships achieve strategic impact. It is centred around the belief that authentic engagement can transform workplaces, careers and leadership.

Madeleine has advised Ministers, CEOs, and heads of large organisations. For more than a decade, she has dedicated her work to exploring the power of authentic leadership through communication, and its ability to inspire and impact people’s lives.

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