Melbourne Business School News How our Women in Leadership Program is helping Tahlia Azaria reinvent Circus Oz

How our Women in Leadership Program is helping Tahlia Azaria reinvent Circus Oz

Like the aerial artists she admires, Tahlia Azaria is taking risks in her mission to embrace new ideas at Australia's favourite circus.

The General Manager of Circus Oz was one of the first participants in Melbourne Business School's Women in Leadership Program, which was recently expanded to meet the needs of more women leaders.

Tahlia enrolled in the program just before stepping into the General Manager role, so she could connect with other women in similar roles who were facing similar challenges – like being a new mother as well as an organisational leader.

"I thought it would be really valuable to meet other women who are at the same level and, perhaps, have experienced similar challenges to me in combining work life with the rest of our lives and family," she says.

"It can be so empowering and so inspiring to be among women who are on a similar trajectory to you, who can be there to answer your questions and to solve similar problems. Just being able to have that time away from work, to plug into a different network, can be so valuable."

Tahlia took on the new challenge at Circus Oz when her first child was aged two, and the groundbreaking cultural institution was looking to reinvent itself.

"The biggest challenge for Circus Oz is to reconcile its 41 years of really strong history," she says.

"The world knows Circus Oz as a particular organisation, but, over the last three years, that has changed, and we are heading in a refreshed direction."

The circus is renowned for combining humour, music and extraordinary physical feats to raise awareness of social issues in ways that appeal to people of all ages.

"Circus Oz is really connected with the community and strongly committed to social justice. Between the community and creativity, it helps start a conversation about some of the bigger issues that the world is facing. It's a really beautiful thing when an organisation can do that," Tahlia says.

Before COVID-19 hit, the company put on around 200 local and international shows a year and held more than 300 circus classes and community workshops – but even then, it was already looking for new ways to engage with audiences.

As a leader, Tahlia isn't constrained by a lack of fresh thinking from the talented people around her – but has the challenge of deciding how to put their abundant creativity into practice.

"There's no shortage of good ideas in this space," she says.

"My challenge is to find ways to make them happen, which often means finding more money because the shows that we put together don't just happen. They take a lot of human power and production and technical work, and those things are expensive."

Tahlia says her experience on the Women in Leadership Program helped her develop new ways of working with her team to let that creativity and human power flourish.

"The highlight of the program for me was Amanda Sinclair's session," she says.

"Amanda has really taught me about being vulnerable. By that I mean to be open and honest, to be human, which allows people around you to be human as well."

Learn more about how we're expanding our Women in Leadership Program here.

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