Secret life of… David Wilkinson

David-Wilkinson_FEATURE

In overseeing a broad externally-facing portfolio, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Corporate Engagement and Advancement) Professor David Wilkinson could be forgiven for putting a crammed diary before exercise and his own wellbeing. Here he reveals why staying active and focusing on the “totality” of life is essential to his role in Macquarie’s leadership team.


“Effective leadership is complex and nuanced. I see it as a marathon, not a sprint and I believe I can be a more effective leader if I am content, well, fit and mentally healthy.  It is what I call the totality of experience that I value – my work, my family and my outside interests like exercise.

Being fit and active is an essential aspect of my existence – a core part of who I am.  I swam and played rugby at medical school and while I was never very good at competitive sports, I have always enjoyed being active and have just kept it all going from there.

As a child I rode my pushbike to school every day, and joined my father – who loved to hike – on many hikes throughout the northern English countryside.

Hiking, in complete solitude and amongst magnificent wilderness, still brings me immense joy. My favourite place in the world is the Drakensberg Mountains in Zululand, South Africa, where my wife’s family comes from. Next year I will spend five nights under canvas in the Drakensberg with my 21-year old son and a small group of photography enthusiasts. I can’t wait.

As a doctor I know how much our own health and wellbeing can be influenced by what we eat and drink, how we move, and our mental state. I can control much of this, so I do my best to.

What that means for me is a one-hour swim, every single morning. I wake up early and am usually the first in the pool when it opens at 6am.

And for the past 20 years I have made a point of breaking my (usually very long) day in the middle, to include a short period of intense exercise. Most days I also manage to get 30-45 minutes in the gym, lifting weights and adding a little high-intensity interval training.

I use this time to listen to podcasts and expose myself to new topics.

My role at the University involves a lot of international travel, mainly supporting our alumni engagement, fundraising and corporate relationships work.  Keeping active is especially important on these trips, as I hate sitting down for extended periods. So I swim and/or run everyday whether I’m at home or abroad. If I am organised, I can make time for fitness and still get everything done.

I have a wonderful role at the University and I enjoy working in support of my frontline academic colleagues, and in partnership with executive colleagues. I enjoy being busy, active, and committed to all that I do, including my ongoing work in teaching GPs how to manage patients with skin cancer.

My work, my family and my outside interests all blend and it is the totality that nurtures and sustains me.

Read more about David’s role as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Corporate Engagement and Advancement).

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