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Associations Leading Ladies – Elizabeth Skirving

This year for International Women’s Day we approached some of the amazing female leaders within the association industry to ask for their thoughts on what it means to be a leader and wear the responsibility of managing an association in this day and age.

This will be the first article of a continuing series featuring some of the key movers and shakers within the industry – so watch this space.

Elizabeth Skirving

Chief Executive Officer, Rural Business Tasmania

Who is Elizabeth Anne Skirving?

Elizabeth is the Chief Executive Officer of Rural Business Tasmania, a not for profit association that provides support for the farming community amongst the ever-changing demands of operating a rural business. A strong advocate for Small Business, Elizabeth also fills leadership roles through directorships on the Tasmanian Small Business Council and COSBOA.


Elizabeth began her involvement with community associations at a young age, following the example of her parents and grandparents who were actively involved in a number of associations. She grew up in a small community and was a 5th generation worker on the family farm when she discovered her bent for finance, leading her to become a Chartered Accountant in her early career.

In her late teens Elizabeth joined Rural Youth Tasmania, a youth organisation that promotes networking, training and opportunities for rural and regional based youth. It was here that Elizabeth played a key leadership role for over a decade.

Key Influencers

It was the leadership of her Great Grandmother, Elizabeth Hannah Skirving, that inspired the current Elizabeth’s desire to achieve.  

In the early 1900’s Elizabeth Hannah tragically lost her husband at 37, with her son being no more than 9 years of age.  Following that, Elizabeth’s namesake not only managed to maintain the family property, but increased holdings and expanded upon the business. All this she accomplished whilst experiencing depression and anxiety, which at the time were largely unacknowledged illnesses.

In many ways like her Grandmother before her, Elizabeth takes pride in not only being named after such a great female leader, but one that showed great humility and perseverance.

On Associations and Leadership

Elizabeth feels the key challenge for the modern associations is maintaining membership and relevance, particularly as the market continues to be saturated with new ventures and increased competition. She believes that success and viability with membership is key, along with establishing an association’s profile and points of difference.

“those organizations who remain relevant, agile and open to moving with current needs are more likely to prosper than those set in traditional processes or spreading themselves thinly for everyone’s needs and priorities. This is where strong leadership, change management and clear strategy are key to the success of an association.”

Elizabeth Anne Skirving

It is Elizabeth’s belief that leadership is changing as we move further into the “connected age”. Leaders no longer control, but instead care, connect and enable. When leading or advocating for an association, she believes understanding how it feels to be in the member’s shoes and talking from the heart contribute greatly. Elizabeth was an early adopter of this method in the late 90’s. She was known as a leader who listened, learned and looked at how change could benefit the whole in the long-term prior to acting.

Like her Grandmother before her, Elizabeth is humble and does not see herself as a leader. Her goal is to make a difference for regional and rural small business owners, to support them and foster the sense of community that Australia is known for.

Susanna Truasheim – Marketing Manager