Mary Dwyer specialises in working with political, business and spiritual leaders across the globe. She is most definitely someone who would be fascinating company at a dinner party. Having worked with leaders from the World Bank, United Nations and CEOs, Mary has an extraordinary wealth of knowledge. In this interview, Mary shares her insights into a vast array of areas from leadership and transformation through to inspirational qualities. Thank you, Mary, for taking the time out of your busy travels to share your very personal views.

1. Your CV reads like an amazing life story. You’ve worked with people that others can only dream of. Having worked with so many diverse people from different cultural backgrounds, what have you learned about humanity and success?

Yes, I have worked with some amazing people. I’ve studied under some amazing people. I attended their workshops or their retreats, and some of them I’ve worked with personally, very closely sometimes. And I think what I’ve learned about everyone, and that is something really common, is that success always looks glamorous from the outside, but behind it there is always a lot of work and a lot of sacrifices. But the people that are most successful, in my eyes, are those people that are still deeply rooted in their humanity. So, what I’ve learned about humanity and success is those people that are really successful are still absolutely connected and rooted in a deep sense of care and reverence for our everyday humanity.


2. You clearly inspire so many people, but who inspires you? 

Having worked with many leaders now, over many years, it is the people who can hold a kindness, and people who are also doing a deep inquiry into their own lives that really inspire me. As a consequence of that, some of the people who inspire me are not necessarily grand figures. On a larger scale, I am aware that every single leader that I work with have got their flaws. But that doesn’t mean that they’re still not extraordinary. Gemma Sisia, who runs the School of St Jude’s in Tanzania, an Australian woman, she inspires me. Dr Scilla Elworthy who’s just written a book called The Business Plan for Peace, she inspires me. My mum inspires me.


3. You’re clearly a well-travelled and experienced lady. What was your childhood like, and what were you like as a young girl?

Well, I was one of the very fortunate people in the world, I think because I had a fabulous childhood. I came from a large and loving family, and we’re very different people now that we’ve all grown up. We are all in our family, I think, united by a sense of doing the right thing. I just heard my father’s voice come into my head, “Do the right thing, Missy.” And a sense of service. I think that that is also through all of my siblings.


4. If you were a colour, what colour would you be, and why? 

I would have to say the colour gold. The colour gold that is highlighted when the sun shines through an autumn leaf. Or, the colour gold that we see when the sun rises over the morning. For me, it’s not so much the gold colour, but it’s the illumination that the light gives. The illumination of light, especially through something that’s living, like a grass or light leaves on a tree. The light in Tasmania, in particular, is beautiful.


5. What does a typical day look like for you? 

It’s completely different every single day. If I take yesterday, it was two different business meetings, one with the Dutch Lottery Foundation and another with a different donor foundation. Then it was onto the Wisdom in Business Conference. It included going out to dinner with a gentleman looking at implementing local economic factors for peace builders around the world. Every single day is different.


6. How powerful do you think words can be with regards to transformation? 

I would say they’re incredibly powerful. I have seen, on the less constructive side, I have seen words from a manager or from a leader completely destroy the engagement and efficacy in a team. Likewise, I have also had experiences that in myself, especially in my early days when the words of a leader could completely demoralise me and my willingness to give and contribute. When Nelson Mandela, after he was released from prison and when he was made President of South Africa for the first time, in his inauguration speech, when he stood on the steps and he said, “Put down your swords and put down your machetes and throw your guns into the river,” he prevented a civil war.


7. So what do you think the future holds for our younger generations? 

I love this question and at times I must admit sometimes I despair for what the future might hold. But yesterday, here in Amsterdam, at the Wisdom in Business Conference was a young cohort of people, I’d say the average age would have been 35 to 40. The room was packed, all of them coming together to seek and hear from people who were very successful about how to be wise in business and everyone had the same story.

We’re starting to teach mindfulness in schools. So with that at its foundation, I think the future is really exciting if we can help our younger generations continue this process and exploration of consciousness and bring it into our workplaces as well as our everyday lives. So, personally, I’m really excited about the future because of the calibre of many of the younger people that I work with and us, older ladies, I think it would be very wise to get out of the way.


8. When the world seems like a dark, bleak place for someone, what can they do to reframe how they’re feeling and see a clearer and brighter future? 

It is different for us all because we all get nurtured in different ways. But I do know that if we have within us the possibility to reach out to someone that we love, and if we can be strong enough to be vulnerable and share how we’re feeling, then making a connection with another human being is a very sensible way, loving way, to help reframe how we are. If that’s not possible, then for me outside in nature. Maybe it’s walking along Kingston Beach when I’m home. Maybe it’s being out in the veggie garden when I’m lucky enough to be home, or here, being outside and walking through a park in Amsterdam as I did yesterday morning. That’s enough to completely lift my spirits. And if all else fails, a good cup of tea.


9. There are sceptics in the world; sceptical about many things. What would your advice be to them? 

I think what’s dangerous about the role of the sceptic is that we can get stuck in the critical instead of just the critical thinking and there’s a difference between the two. So many of the hardened sceptics, I’ve seen them, really good people, many of them were once upon a time an idealist. And yet somehow, they didn’t manage to translate those ideas into a practical and everyday reality, leading to scepticism.  I would ask,  ‘How can you turn that into something’s that’s much more beneficial for you and for other people?’


10. The Final Act of Grace, Mastering a Peaceful Death, is an extraordinary book that you’ve recently written. What motivated you to write such a brilliant and thought-provoking book?

It was Adrian’s [Adrian Beardsley] death that motivated me to write the book, but not just his death, the way that he died. He just died such a brilliant and magnificent death, and I think that was because of much of the leadership development that he’d done over the course of his life, and then him applying that when he really needed to, at a time of great personal challenge.


11. What’s next for Mary Dwyer? 

I know that I would like to take the learnings from this last big trip that I’ve just been on back into my own team. I’m really interested in the development of consciousness in leadership, and what does it really mean, and what does it really take for a team to truly collaborate? And the reason why I think that is that now, no longer can one of us just do it by ourselves. The issues that we all face are too complicated and too complex, and the skills that we all need even in order to run a simple business, the skills that we all need now, from marketing skills to computer skills, to financial knowledge, to development in working with others, those skills are so diverse that I actually think it requires a really great team to make things happen now.


To learn more about Mary and the amazing work she does, please click here.