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Memoir of a mentor

The late Chloe Munro AO was a leader and pioneer of the clean energy industry. Throughout her lifetime, she played an integral role in accelerating Australia’s transition to renewable energy and served as an inspiration to many – especially women working in the sector.

Our Chief Executive, Kane Thornton, was fortunate to have Chloe not only as a friend, but an inspiring mentor as well. This International Women's Day we invited Kane to reflect on the ways in which Chloe made such a momentous impression and positive influence.

KT CM

The late Chloe Munro was many wonderful things to many people. I first met her when I was a newly minted chief executive, finding my way in the complex and difficult world of Australian energy and climate politics. Chloe was confident, humble, direct, charming, and witty and we made an immediate connection. She was a unique leader, particularly in the energy sector, generally dominated (at least back then) by big ego, loud talking middle-aged blokes.

She was also generous with her time and advice, and we stayed in touch and became confidants and friends over the years. She was a mentor and a coach at different stages of my career. I loved testing ideas, sharing my challenges and insecurities and absorbing her wise counsel. While I will never match her wisdom, many of her ideas and words will live with me forever. She had models for business planning, concepts for the future of the energy market and frameworks to help me assess my life's purpose and place in the world.

But the real gold sat in the questions she asked me. What is the giant goal you want to achieve? Why can't you just ignore that (thing that was keeping me awake at night)? Who are the people who inspire you and why don't you just reach out to them? Why do you wear such boring ties? Nothing was off limits, but it was all grounded in a deep curiosity combined with a recognition of the power of questions. She rarely gave me answers, but the questions she posed and the experiences she shared always gave me confidence that I was heading in the right direction or a pathway for finding the right answer. The power of great questions is a sign of great wisdom, and lots of practice.

The other advice that has permeated my personal and professional life is to be biased toward action and positivity. Our brains are hard wired to have a negativity bias. It's what helped us survive and flourish as a species. And it takes enormous practice and training to shift that bias. But it's worthwhile, and critically important to maintaining our own energy. Particularly, working in the clean energy industry, there is an enormous amount to be grateful for and deep wells to draw positive energy from. And we have so much to do and change in unlocking a clean energy future, sometimes we just need to get stuck in and crack on.

I miss Chloe, but these wise ideas and talents will live with me for the rest of my life. And Chloe was right, my ties were boring.

Kane Thornton
Chief Executive
Clean Energy Council