Ever dreamt that you’re just about to give a talk to a group of powerful executives only to realise your pants are inside out?
Well that’s how Audette Exel rolls, and truth be told this activist, turned lawyer, turned banker and philanthropic champion, believes all women need to embrace the craziness of life to succeed.
“Sometimes I run out the door and don’t even have the same shoes on,” says the 53-year-old, who heads up the Adara Group, which is a unique Australian financial services company that operates for purpose rather than profit.
Last year her company donated just short of a million dollars of revenues which they made by advising big corporate deals, and that money was used by her non-profit, Adara Development, to directly help women and children living in extreme poverty.
So accomplished is Audette that her list of Australian and international business awards and achievements seems endless. Yet because of her lack of ego, it’s perhaps unsurprising that many people outside of the world of finance haven’t heard of her.
“I think women are not very good at celebrating our successes. In my world, I believe in humility and taking your wins when you have got them.
But from a business and leadership standpoint, Audette believes that women have never been better placed than they are today to achieve success and take leadership in society and indeed the world.
“I had a conversation recently with a man who said to me “you women are taking over,” and I said “well don’t you think it is our turn?”
“From a business sense women have walked in a world that has been dominated by a predominately white male cohort and I think as women grow and take the reins of power we have the ability to redefine that.”
With that in mind, she believes that women can succeed by:
“Never taking no for an answer, having the courage to stand up, getting involved in the process, and having a voice in the public square.
“The thing I have learned is to stop listening to all the things in my head, such as what I need to do and the things that are outstanding. I have had to say to myself that today was a really good day and now I’m going to bed and I’ll be back at it tomorrow.”
Audette says she measures her own success by whether she is being true to her purpose, or calling if you will.
“Do something that is meaningful to you. Even though I am 18 years with Adara, there has never been a day that I haven’t wanted to throw myself out of bed to go to work.
“Purpose and passion is important. So too is cutting yourself some slack and recognising that you cannot do everything all the time. That for me has been a good strategy.
“I think we each have to define what success means to us individually, and live as closely as we can to that personal truth. It’s not about what other people think is success, it’s about what each person feels for themselves.
“So for me success is about trying to do what I do to a standard of excellence, and to try to use my skills and my life to support positive social change and to fight in my own way for social justice.”
Adara Group is Audette’s expression of exactly that, where she uses corporate finance skills to create funding for development teams to support women and children in need.
“I have had the huge good fortune to be able to carve my own path. It has been a flat out crazy life. The thing that has driven me is my passion for social justice. I feel a huge responsibility to do the best I can with the life I have been given. So for me, it hasn’t been about moderation. It has been the opposite. It has been about leaping out of bed every day ready to get into it, grateful for the good fortune of my life.
“There is absolutely nothing about my life that is traditional! I work madly, and hard, and I love what I do. And I am so grateful that I have had the chances I have had.”
Bianca Hartge-Hazelman is the author of this article and is the founder of Financy at www.financy.com.au, a website that’s dedicated to helping women with money choices, sharing tips, stories and inspiration.
The photo featured in this post was taken by Jonathan Torgovnik