Photo credit: Paralympics Australia
For as long as Katrina Webb can remember, she was different to others. Now, as a three-time athletics Paralympian, entrepreneur, business owner, physio and professional services leadership coach, this difference has become, in fact, one of her greatest strengths.
Katrina had lived with a weakness on the right side of her body preventing her from the same ease of movement that most people enjoy. But it wasn’t until she was 18, when she was diagnosed with a mild case of Cerebral Palsy, that her condition was fully realised.
However, after facing her fears as well as mental and physical challenges, her strength and resilience ultimately prevailed. Katrina went on to win seven medals in total from a range of athletics track and field events at the Paralympic Games, three of which are gold.
Katrina’s road to success was not a linear path, and many mentors and coaches have shaped her journey. However, she recalls a pivotal moment that changed the way she thought about her diagnosis. When she discovered she had Cerebral Palsy, she was on a netball scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), and was approached by Chris Nunn, OAM, who is known for his work integrating athletes with a disability into the AIS athletics program. He presented her with an opportunity to see her Cerebral Palsy in a different light.
“He was the one who connected me to the Paralympic movement,” she says. “It was his passion and words that ignited my desire to find out more, because he loves our movement so much. I needed to get over my fears of not being good enough and people not liking me. He gave me confidence in that moment.”
“I didn't want to be different. I worked so hard for 18 years to hide my disability. And it was exhausting. When I found out that I was eligible to go the Paralympic Games, it was this amazing opportunity. Depending on how much work I put in, I knew then I'd find a way to accept and love my difference,” she recalls.
Katrina’s success spans further than her sporting career, however, and she applies much of what she learned about leadership to her work as the founder and director of Newday Leadership, an organisation helping to bridge the corporate social responsibility gap by connecting corporates with not-for-profit organisations and projects.
Regardless of profession or role in an organisation, she believes that everyone has the potential and capacity to lead – both as individuals and within businesses. “Leadership is not hierarchical. When I look at leadership, in a simple definition, it's about unlocking potential,” she says.
This begins with what Katrina refers to as self-leadership – the idea of taking care of yourself, understanding your purpose and ultimately being able to pay it forward. “Self leadership is about looking at the hard times and the good times, and really thinking about what you want to be known for when you step out of your home or you go into work. What legacy are you leaving? And is that the legacy you want to be known for? That's what makes extraordinary leaders.”
This strong sense of purpose is something that has given her the confidence to continue to achieve and help others through her work. “If you're in a position where you might have influence on people in a workplace, then leadership is this unique gift where you help unlock people's potential around you to serve, whatever the purpose of the business.”