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Profile: Leadership Network member Angela Lim

Leadership Network member Angela Lim is a freshly graduated doctor, working at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital. This month, Angela was awarded the Sport NZ Next Generation Leadership award at the Women in Governance Awards.

Angela Lim with fellow Leadership Network members Radhika Joseph and  Richard Evans, and the Foundation's former board chairman Philip Burdon

When she was little, Angela Lim always wanted to sit at the “adult’s table” at family functions. 

She remembers relishing listening to her aunts and uncles talk about their businesses, the challenges they faced, politics, and life.

Angela’s mother was one of seven siblings who grew up in a one-room home in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Angela’s now 93-year-old grandmother took in laundry and pretty much single handedly raised her children.

“That was the sort of poverty they grew up with, and yet most of them actually turned out to be self-made millionaires, who turned their fortunes through sheer persistence and determination and just a little bit of creativity. Unfortunately, my mom wasn’t one of them!”

Angela moved to New Zealand from Malaysia at 15. She says her leadership values have been shaped by her Asian heritage and family legacy.

“You’ll be surprised, I guess, by how much you subconsciously ingest as you grow up.”

Angela’s leadership story is also characterised by her gender and her youth.

“There are always going to be barriers because I am Asian, there are barriers because I am female, and there are barriers because I am young,” she says.

However, she hasn't allowed herself to be held back and at 26 has already been on some eight governance boards or trusts, including national and regional level health boards.

“I think if I obsessed about them [prejudices] that would be dangerous. I acknowledge that they exist, but I’ve never had them as a chip on my shoulder.”

She is proud of her differences and that they shape who she is and how she sees and approaches the world – and in leadership roles they bring fresh perspectives on problems and potential solutions, she says.

“People who choose to stereotype me or profile me based on that are people who haven’t been open-minded enough to acknowledge diversity as a strength.”

A turning point in her leadership journey was joining the Leadership Network when she was studying at University. She finally found a crew of people with similar interests and ambitions that she could hang out with and comfortably share her aspirations.

“In high school, I was struggling to meet people like that. I felt like because of the tall poppy syndrome in New Zealand, I hid a lot of the ambitions I had. I didn’t talk or act upon it until much later.” 

Angela is an active Leadership Network member. This month she was one of eight members of the network who shared their insights and business nous with a team of high school students competing in the Enterprise in Action event in Auckland.

She says being a mentor for the day was a chance to support the next generation.

“The chance to be able to share the lessons I’ve learnt on my own entrepreneurship journey so that they can get a heads up and avoid the same mistakes I’ve made is hugely satisfying for me.”

She describes winning the Sport NZ Next Generation Leadership award as slightly "surreal".

"I think it’s because I am really cognisant that there are a lot of more amazing people out there making a real impact in society, including in the governance space. But, I am very grateful to have won, and it serves as an encouragement to me that I am on the right track and to keep persevering."

Angela has recently joined the Leadership Network's Advisory Group.

By Leadership Network member Kim Bowden

Find out more

July 2016