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One of the most empowering actions we can take is making decisions in alignment with our purpose and values. When there are infinite possibilities, the most powerful are often the opportunities that truly align with who we are rather than society’s expectations of us. These ‘sliding doors’ moments are amazing to reflect back on to see just how these different paths impact our lives. A great example of this is Emerging Leaders in Governance Program graduate, Krishan Shah who made the courageous decision to leave his job after discovering that his values did not align with his work.

Meet Krishan

Krishan’s story crosses continents and cultures. Indian by heritage, he was born in London, grew up in Kenya, and having now lived in Australia for more than 20 years. After spending over a year volunteering in South America, he met his Alaskan wife whilst travelling through Sri Lanka. He was privileged to experience so much of the world which has helped him understand the systemic inequalities that exist and ultimately shaped his purpose – to support sustainable, empowering, community-driven change.

Tell us about an organisation you’re involved with and what you’ve learnt about creating positive change?

My work at Curtin Volunteers has seen me coordinate community outreach programs and volunteering opportunities for Curtin University students. Over this time, I have seen first hand the immense impact that volunteering can have, not only on the communities or organisations being supported, but also on the individuals who are giving their time. Biases and assumptions are crushed, minds are opened and often, individuals will change the focus of their life due to pivotal experiences. With space for open conversation and robust reflective practice, there is potential to maximise the lasting impact volunteering can have on all parties involved.

What was the first step you took to build your leadership or create change?

Taking a role in volunteering and the community development space was a strange move for a Finance major. Ultimately, it came from a place of wanting to ensure that my personal values were well aligned with my professional goals. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this was a first and important step towards creating some meaningful change.

Tell us about a moment where you were really brave and why. What do you learn?

I had to make the difficult decision to walk away from an international NGO that I was working with when I discovered that my values did not align with the way they conducted their activities. It taught me a lot about the complexities and nuances of working in the international development space and made me reflect more deeply on outcomes of programs that may have good intentions but are structured poorly. This experience has shaped my approach to community development to ensure that practices are transparent, holistic and embody the values of self determination and empowerment.

What habits, mindsets or behaviours help you be the best person you can be?

Someone once told me the hardest conversation is probably the one you need to have the most. I try to approach situations with honesty and authenticity. It has forced me to have some difficult and uncomfortable conversations but in retrospect, has always allowed me to feel reassured that I have acted with integrity and free from deception or avoidance.

What’s the best book you’ve read that’s helped you in your leadership journey?

Self Compassion – The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff. I aspire to be a kind and empathetic leader and member of the community, this book taught me that you can’t truly be kind towards others until you first treat yourself with kindness and compassion. It’s a fairly simple, yet revolutionary concept that helped me at a time when I needed it and continues to influence how I interact with myself and the world around me.

How do you take care of yourself?

Rock climbing helps me tap into my inner child, to focus solely on the here and now and put everything else in the background. I also look forward each year to Navratri, an Indian festival that spans 9 consecutive nights and involves copious amounts of dancing, colour and delicious food.

What’s next for you?

I am a proud father of one beautiful boy and am about to become a father of two. I view fatherhood as the most important job I have, the greatest opportunity to learn, and the most joyous and rewarding of all experiences (I reserve the right to provide a different description at 3am after a week of sleepless nights!).

What’s a small change you can make to further your purpose?

As somebody who presents to groups frequently, I would like to make my Acknowledgement of Country more meaningful and authentic. Repeating the same predetermined script sometimes feels tokenistic and robs this important practice of its power and significance. It is my goal to come up with an Acknowledgement of Country that is relevant to my own life experience, authentic and contextually appropriate. This is a small and relatively simple change but one that strikes me as both important and impactful.