Why is playing tennis like leadership in the energy sector?

April 3, 2024
leadership lessons in the energy sector

In the January 2023, Netflix released the tense yet stunning documentary series, Break Point. The show offered a behind the scenes look at the lives of top tennis players as they travelled around the world playing in the biggest global tournaments.

But what does this have to do with leadership, data, or even the energy sector?

The answer lies in getting to know Leeanne Chau, Head of Strategy, Transformation & Analytics, at leading energy infrastructure company APA Group.

While nowhere near Grand Slam ready herself, Leeanne and her family can be found on a court at least four or five times a week.

She says, “It’s a sport that has captured our hearts and minds – with many parallels to professional life”.

Intrigued, we asked Leeanne what it is about playing tennis that she sees as similar to her role at APA Group. She shared this quote from the Break Point series:

“It’s the balance between the fear and the will… in two seconds everything can change.”

How Leeanne’s career has changed

After receiving support from Deloitte to complete her university degree, Leeanne launched her career as a cadet in the company’s Assurance & Advisory division. 

“It was an ideal place to start my career, as I was surrounded by highly successful professionals who had a vested interest in my development. I then moved into the consulting division, working with numerous clients across a range of industries and disciplines.”

It was here that she gained her passion for all things technology, digital, data-related, and most importantly, understood the importance of a people first culture.  

Around this time, she also became a proud parent of three! Something that’s given her some valuable, transferable life skills. 

leadership lessons in the energy sector

“I’d probably qualify for an Olympic medal in multi-tasking,” she laughs. “My brain is always thinking about their schedules, things I need to book for them, and how to keep our home running smoothly. We love staying active and doing things together as a family – like tennis.”

APA Group prioritizes its people by providing numerous pathways for team members to develop their capabilities.

Find out more. 

The transition to tech

Leeanne continued developing her technical and leadership skills and expanding the breadth of her portfolios. 

leadership lessons in the energy sector

“When it felt time for a change, I spoke with people I knew at APA Group. They had such great things to share about the company’s success and its supportive, down-to-earth culture. This is how I find myself, now, in one of the most exciting industries, in one of Australia’s largest ASX-listed organizations, leading the transition to a carbon-free future.” 

As Head of Strategy, Transformation & Analytics, Leeanne drives the strategic direction of technology, digital, and data. 

“In particular, that’s the ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ of our technology function and ensuring we’re delivering value. I lead transformation for our technology group to ensure we remain competitive, deliver a cost-effective service, and enable and support our growth goals.

“All in all, overseeing our data and analytics capabilities involves empowering APA Group as a data-driven organization, through advanced analytics, machine learning, and data literacy.”

And just as promised, the culture has been amazingly supportive.  

leeane and her colleague

“For those interested in exploring a role here, you’ll get to work with some very impressive people! I’ve had the opportunity to receive mentorship, both formally and informally. I’m proud to work with our CIO, my Program Manager, and my team.”

Further evidence of this support came when Leeanne recently had a medical situation that landed her in the emergency department. 

“I was overwhelmed by the extent of concern and well-wishing by my colleagues and team. My CIO – Russell Morris – also showed care, offered to help, and made it clear my well-being and health were more important than timelines and deliverables.” 

What’s tennis got to do with all this?

In a role with many moving pieces and shifting priorities, she must balance these aspects against consistent, high-quality delivery. 

Here again, the lessons from playing tennis become relevant to Leeanne, as she explains.

“Just like the quote from Break Point describes, the tide in the tech world can turn in seconds. But you can’t let fear overcome you. You can’t let self-doubt hold you back.”

Leeanne shares that she used to suffer terribly with an inner critic. But in the same way a tennis player can hone their skills, so too has she worked hard to better recognize when to question the validity of these negative thoughts. 

“I had humble beginnings as my parents were refugees to Australia, and sometimes I have to pinch myself to remind myself not only of how far I have come, but how it was my relentless drive, passion, and experiences that got me here.”

With repeated practice, Leeanne has learned to silence that inner critic and take on those split-second changes with grace and determination.  

Stepping into your power

For others looking to succeed in their careers – whether that career is in data, technology, the energy sector, or even as a tennis Grand Slam champion – Leeanne reminds us to steer clear of this common pitfall.  

“Confidence is not something you are born with. It’s a learned skill and can be the key to success in any field.

“When you build your confidence, that deep self-belief becomes resilience. That resilience will not stop the fear, that is I’m afraid just a part of the beautiful emotional spectrum of human nature. But what confidence and resilience do together is keep realistic boundaries on that fear, to keep it balanced, as the quote from Break Point highlights.

“Learn to be kind to yourself, have confidence in you and appreciate yourself for who you are. Once you do, nobody can take this power away from you!” 

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About the Author

Jacynta Clayton’s career started in recruitment advertising and employer branding, working with global clients to create and deploy strategic and creative content. Now she combines her industry experience with the knowledge from her psychology and professional writing degrees to write unique and resounding stories. As a WORK180 storyteller she relishes the opportunity to elevate the voices and experiences of so many amazing people, while also empowering and educating audiences on how to choose a workplace where they can thrive.

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