What’s so good about the Melbourne Tourism Industry Leadership Program?

Life changing. That’s the best way to summarise my Melbourne Tourism Industry Leadership Program (MTILP) experience.

By the end of 2014 I had been working in my dream job for quite a few years but I was torn. As much as I loved my job, a lengthy and somewhat torturous restructure process was taking its toll (perhaps a little more than I had realised) and at the same time I felt like my career had started to become stagnant.

I was frustrated, fatigued, emotionally drained, unclear about my long term career direction and starting to wonder what my next dream job might look like. I knew something needed to change and I was ready to explore and embrace new ideas and opportunities.

On 9 December 2014 I found out I’d been accepted into MTILP for 2015. It could not have happened at a better time. It sounded like a great opportunity and was something to look forward to for the year ahead. Little did I know just how impacting MTILP would be.

Initially I didn’t know much about MTILP other than it was not ‘leadership 101’ and it would give me an opportunity to learn, grow and explore who I am as a leader and how I could potentially further my career longer term.

Curious to learn more about what I was getting myself into, I spoke to a couple people who had previously completed MTILP. They all spoke very highly of MTILP and said I was in for an incredible year but articulating what to expect seemed to be somewhat of a challenge. I soon discovered none of the previous ‘MTILPers’ could describe what MTILP actually was in a clear and succinct way. My anticipation was growing but despite my best efforts to find out more about it, my expectations were still quite vague.


The before shot – MTILP class of 2015. That’s me on the far left.

Finally the first day arrived. We started a 2 day residential workshop at the Bowls Club in Flagstaff Gardens. Anxious but full of anticipation, 20 new MTILPers including myself embarked on an epic journey of discovery.

I started day one hopeful that by the end of MTILP I was going to get answers to some very serious questions in my mind. What is my next dream job? How do I thrive as an introvert in an extroverted tourism industry? How can I be a positive influence on my organisation? How can I be a better leader? What do I actually want from my career?

It didn’t take long to work out I was really going to enjoy MTILP. One of the first things I remember our facilitator and trainer Mel Neil saying was not to expect pointless group activities masquerading as content. Fantastic. Great start. I can’t stand time wasting workshop activities. From there things kicked into gear very quickly and I soon discovered that MTILP is meaty… very meaty. In fact it’s so meaty that it’s quite a lot to take in.

After the first day I had so much information percolating in my head that I was still awake at about 3am that night trying to process it all. Thankfully MTILP is spread out over a year. There’s no way I could have taken it in all at once.

The content presented is well tested and researched science based leadership principles and tools. It is deep, insightful and sometimes quite confronting on a personal level. MTILP is definitely not ‘leadership 101’ and it is not a series of untested leadership theories, opinions or trends.

One of the great highlights of MTILP is the series of inspirational high caliber guest speakers who share their own personal leadership insights and stories. We heard from people such as former Victorian Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon and ARIA award winning singer/songwriter Clare Bowditch as well as key tourism industry figures and leaders. Presenting to such an intimate group allows each speaker to bring something different and leave you with unique personal perspective and stories that you wouldn’t usually hear.


One of my post MTILP workshop moments of reflection.

It’s been more than a year since I graduated from the program and I’m still amazed at how many times I reference and use what I have learnt. I got so much more out of MTILP than I ever anticipated.

I can honestly say that MTILP has changed me.

I now have a new tool box full of practical and effective leadership tools that have helped me become more effective in my job and also my family life.

I’ve found a new confidence like I have never had before. I have a clear understanding of who I am, my values, how my values influence the way I respond to situations, what energises or de-energises me and even how to handle conflict more effectively.

I have increased my influence and ability to lead in my current role within my organisation and more broadly in the wider tourism industry.

I now have answers to the questions I had on that first day. The answers weren’t even necessarily part of the content but the MTILP experience includes the light bulbs that illuminated the answers. I have a clear idea of the direction I want to take my career which has enabled me to make decisions to progress my long term career and has influenced how I approach my current role.

I have a much deeper understanding of the tourism industry through exposure to my fellow MTILPers and the many challenging discussions we shared plus doors have opened to a number of new tourism networking opportunities.

I gained an instant network of tourism colleagues who shared my MTILP experience and one of the biggest things I didn’t expect was they’ve also become close friends.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. (MTILP pun intended)


One of our MTILP workshops was at Eureka Skydeck.

I understand now why MTILPers find it difficult to articulate what MTILP actually is. I now share their struggle. It’s like trying to explain what an apple tastes like to someone who has never eaten an apple before.

I’m going to give it a shot though… here goes…

MTILP is a tourism flavoured journey of self discovery that empowers you with a bag of leadership tools and inspirational experiences designed to help you be your best self and to influence a stronger, more effective organisation and tourism industry.    

…and that’s not even close to doing it justice.

MTILP really is incredible. I can not recommend MTILP enough and I would strongly encourage anyone involved in the tourism industry in Victoria, Australia to seriously consider applying. It’s absolutely worth the sacrifice and commitment required and it truly is a life changing experience.

Details for MTILP are on Destination Melbourne’s website here: Melbourne Tourism Industry Leadership Program



Whether you know it or not – you are a leader.

By Jarred Parsons


Every person on this great big blue planet is a leader. Yes – that includes you.

‘We can’t all be leaders’ I hear you say. After all, a leader needs followers and if there are followers those followers are not leaders. This assumes that a leader is always leading and that a follower is always following. However, life is a little more complicated than we sometimes like to believe. The reality is leaders don’t always exclusively lead and followers don’t always exclusively follow. We all do a bit of both.

Leadership is influence. When you influence someone you lead them. Some of us lead more than others. Some of us lead better than others. Never the less – we all lead in some shape or form.

A simply act of sharing your opinion can influence how another person thinks about the topic of discussion. That’s a result of leadership.

Leadership can be big. Leadership can be small. Leadership can be positive. Leadership can be negative. Leadership can be obvious. Leadership can be completely oblivious. Leadership can be deliberate. Leadership can be accidental.

For almost 15 years I was involved in leading youth and young adults groups through my church. It was an incredible season of my life and along the way I established the foundations of my leadership skills and discovered a lot about who I am. It was also a very rewarding and impacting experience.

During part of my season I was lucky enough to have an awesome youth pastor by the name of Ps Louis Fife who was very passionate about leadership and growing/developing leadership in others.

Ps Louis taught us a lot and his leadership has shaped much of mine.

My all time favourite leadership quote came from Ps Louis. “Leadership is empowering (young) people for greatness.”

Our world tends to be very self centric. From an early age we’re told we need to get a career and make as much money as possible and buy a good house and do all you can to be successful and wealthy. It’s rare that someone will tell you that   empowering other people is a measure of success.

Empowering people for greatness is a very powerful approach to leadership. When we deliberately choose to build people up, to empower them and help them grow in their own leadership we create a leadership phenomenon called multiplication.
When you build and empower other leaders, they tend to take your influence and spread it further. Instead of just you leading, it becomes you and another person leading. And if you’re empowering multiple people who then go on to influence others your leadership suddenly has the opportunity to influence more people and to spread further than had it just been you on your own. And if you train your initial leaders to develop leaders your influence spreads even further again.

Structurally – a true leader doesn’t necessarily need to climb a corporate ladder to grow their influence. A true leader grows influence by drawing followers and increasing the numbers they influence rather than taking an increased positional authority over people to gain more influence. Sometimes we think because someone has a position or a title they are a leader but this is not always the case. There’s a big difference between leadership and management and many people in positions aren’t leaders but rather managers with a title. They manage what they have and they don’t tend to grow more influence outside their current situation. Their influence is positional. If they stepped out of that position they may find their influence dissolves almost instantly but a true leader can carry a high degree of influence even without the title or position.

The key to being a really great leader is having clear purpose and a destination goal in mind. If you’re going to lead… you need to know where you are going, why you are going there and why someone else should follow. It’s easy to lead without vision and purpose but the results are usually haphazard and fleeting. A leader with a clear vision and purpose is working towards a destination point… a visible end dream. Most followers are happy to be led when they can see clear vision and purpose and the bigger the vision the more inspiring it is likely to be.

You may not feel like much of a leader right now. Or maybe you feel like a great leader. Either way… you can grow your current leadership skills and increase your influence. Identify a clear vision and purpose, understand the power of your influence and empower people for greatness. With positive leadership and influence you can help make this world a much better place.

The Pursuit of Happiness


By Jarred Parsons
A few years ago I returned to work after a well-earned break to discover I had a new manager and was about to be relocated to another office as a result of an internal restructure. I’d be lying if I said I was happy with the changes but being a ‘glass half full’ person I tried to make the best of my new situation. It didn’t take long to realise that not all change is good change and it certainly wasn’t for me on this particular occasion.

Shortly after the changes we had our first child. Unfortunately I was one of the unlucky 23% of parents who have babies that don’t sleep well. For the first two years our daughter didn’t sleep any longer than about 45 minutes at a time.

Things got really hard really fast. What followed was by far the most difficult years of my entire career. I was operating on no sleep, struggling to keep on top of increased expectations and extra pressures directly resulting from the new structural arrangements. I kept going as best as I could however I felt like I was on a train in a very dark tunnel with no light at the end.

I’m not sure why I never really thought to talk to God about it. Perhaps my mind wasn’t clear enough for such a logical thought. It was probably more that my world was so hazy that I didn’t really see my struggles. It wasn’t until I had a moment where things really felt like they’d hit rock bottom and I got so desperate that the only thing left for me to do was call out to God for help. That night was a real turning point as God released me from much of the burden I’d been carrying. 

It was a horrible season but with the benefit of hindsight I have learnt a lot from it.

During this season I had a friend who had been diagnosed with severe clinical depression. We weren’t quite sure how we could help but there was a session about depression and anxiety at the staff conference that year which I thought might help me learn more about it. The presenter put 16 symptoms of depression on the screen including not eating properly, difficulty sleeping, dramatic changes to your circumstances outside your control, feeling helpless, difficulty concentrating, loss of energy and loss of interest in daily activities to name but a few.

As we went through the list I realised I was experiencing 14 of the 16 symptoms right at that moment in time. It’s then I realised I was suffering from a mild depression. I’d always been known as ‘Mr Happy’ so it never occurred to me that I would ever experience depression myself.

I’ve reflected a lot on that season as we’ve been going through the latest restructure at work. In the midst of change depression and anxiety can sneak up on you. You may not even realise it’s having an effect on you. It’s worth taking some time out to honestly ask yourself “Is it possible that I’m currently experiencing depression or anxiety?”

It’s ok if you are. The vast majority of us experience a form of depression or anxiety at some point in our lives. If you ask enough people you will find others who have also had similar experiences.

One of the best things I did at the time, apart from praying, was to find a couple of key people in my life that I could talk to openly and honestly about where I was at. It was important that they were trustworthy, good listeners and that they could provide encouragement and wise advice where it was needed. Starting the conversation empowered me to start looking for the tools that helped find the lights in the tunnel.

If things don’t feel so good right now please talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Whether it is a trusted colleague, a pastor, a friend or even someone anonymous from a help line – it makes a huge difference.

I’m currently taking part in a leadership program where we recently explored a really interesting world-wide scientific study on happiness. Surprisingly many of the poorest countries rated among the happiest which really makes you think.

All things considered in the many countries across the world where the study was conducted, the scientists discovered there were three major factors that contribute to your happiness:

50% of your happiness is determined by your genetics. It’s predetermined and you can’t change it. For example – If you come from happy natured parents then you are likely to also be happy natured.

10% of your happiness is a result of your circumstances which includes what happens to you, your financial situation, your health, your job (including restructures), where you live and who you have around you.

The remaining 40% of happiness is determined by your intentional activities or decisions. This is where you have the greatest influence over your happiness. The research determined there were 12 main types of intentional activities that have a positive impact on personal happiness:

  • Avoiding over thinking
  • Social comparison
  • Practicing acts of kindness
  • Nurturing social relationships
  • Developing strategies for coping
  • Learning to forgive
  • Increasing flow experiences (Inspirational or adventurous activities requiring full immersion or concentration)
  • Savouring life’s pleasures
  • Committing to your goals
  • Practicing religion and spirituality
  • Taking care of your body through physical exercise and meditation
  • Acting like your happy

When you partake in any of these 12 activities regularly in a positive way they build up your resilience to negative influences on your happiness. They may not necessarily prevent you experiencing a period of non-happiness (for example if a close friend or relative dies you will still be sad for a period of time) but they do help lessen the negative impact and improve your general long term happiness.

Whether you are in a happy place right now or struggling with life, these 12 tools will improve your situation. With 12 proven tactics now up your sleeve, what can you do to increase happiness in your life?