Yes, she was the first torch bearer to enter the stadium for the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games.
Yes, she’s a current global ambassador for the International Paralympic Committee and has spoken at the United Nations in New York.
But her countless sporting accolades are only part of her story.
In this Q&A session we peel back the layers of Katrina Webb. It’s raw, honest, inspiring and candid – but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Are you ready to be inspired by a truly extraordinary human? Then, this transcript is a must-read.
Q: Have you unlocked your purpose, and if so, what is it?
A: Yes, I feel I have a mission in life; a purpose that goes beyond the gold-medal podium.
At my core, I feel I am a changemaker; someone who is passionate about inspiring and empowering others to meet their potential and lead their best life.
There are many different ways that I am enacting my purpose, but I can definitely say that I get up every morning with a fire in my belly to help change the world for the better. I approach everyday with enthusiasm, passion, dedication and authenticity in who I am, and the gifts that I bring to the world.
Q: How do you feel you’re leading for the greater good?
A: Good question. Through my life I have taken every opportunity to positively impact people’s lives, and here are just a few ways I believe I’m leading for the greater good.
I facilitate leadership programs in Nepal, raising funds for the health, education and protection of children in local Nepalese communities.
I’m a certified trainer in wellbeing and resilience with the SA Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI). I’m trained to deliver their best practice Be Well program; a truly transformative experience for participants.
Over 15 years ago, I established my own business, Silver 2 Gold High Performance Solutions, which helps individuals and organisations achieve their best through personal mastery and performance coaching.
And 5 years ago, I founded social enterprise Newday Leadership, a personal and professional development organisation. At Newday, we hold annual Summits, leadership labs, and web-based e-Series programs that feature world-class speakers, creatives, trailblazers and changemakers who motivate, challenge and prepare attendees to become the leaders they want to be, but they do so in the context of leading with heart. We believe that every new day is an opportunity to make the world a better place, and it’s this philosophy that we instil and foster in our Newday community.
Q: Can you describe a time when you encountered a significant challenge or setback? How did you overcome it? What did you learn about yourself?
A: Absolutely. This question goes right to the heart of one of my most significant life struggles.
When I was 18, I secured a netball scholarship with the Australian Institute of Sport. My future seemed bright. But it was during this time, that the right-sided weakness in my body that I had spent a lifetime trying to hide, was labelled Cerebral Palsy. At the time, this diagnosis was confusing and devastating for me. I also developed an injury that plagued my netball future; a future that I had spent my whole life trying to realise. Within months, my dream of playing netball at the highest level was shattered.
But I suddenly had a new path. I was eligible for the Paralympic games. Although this revelation may have seemed positive, at the time, it was terrifying. Not only did I have to train in a new sport to compete, but I also had to acknowledge and come to terms with the very weakness that I’d spent a lifetime trying to conceal. I had to step out and say I was different…and this was an immensely frightening proposition.
So, how did I overcome this and what did I learn about myself? I realised that through self-acceptance and determination, I could turn my limitation into a gift. I learnt that my greatest weakness was actually my greatest strength. I learnt that the path forward required me to embrace difference and be proud of that. I learnt that by doing so, I could be a role model for others, to also embrace their difference.
Winning two Gold and a Silver in Atlanta 1996, a Silver and Bronze at Sydney 2000, and a Gold in Athens 2004, I finally understood that the power of my mind held the key to mastery and performance at the highest level. So, with this insight, I’m on a mission to pass on my learnings and share my story, so others can make their unique mark on the world.
Q: How would you describe your work style?
A: In a single word, my work style is ‘collaborative’. I believe that everyone should have a voice and the opportunity to flourish.
As someone with a disability, I’m also a passionate advocate for diversity in organisations and in society. Life would be very dull if we were all the same! I take time in listening and valuing the unique perspectives, ideas, and approaches from everyone who crosses my path, especially from those who are different from me. This is where the gold is. I encourage you to take the time to do the same.
Q: What do you think makes a great leader?
A: I have worked with many incredible leaders throughout my life, and there is one thing that transcends them from good to great.
They believe in the power of kindness. They show vulnerability and compassion to others. They are authentic. And they have a drive to create positive change in the world that go beyond themselves. I try to follow their example every day.
Q: What 3 pieces of advice would you give to others?
A: It’s so hard to distil my life experience and learnings into 3 pieces of advice, but here I go!
- Live by the mantra ‘what can I give’ instead of ‘what can I get.’ This is an important one as is goes to the heart of leading for the greater good. Not only are people who focus on improving the lives of others happier and more content, but they have greater purpose. In the end, we all share this rock together, and to flourish we need to look out for one another and help others on their personal journey. This perspective will change your life. Try it.
- Be vulnerable in life. Sometimes, it takes courage to be vulnerable, especially in the workplace, but this approach has power and magic. People confuse vulnerability with weakness, but it is quite the opposite. So, how do you be vulnerable? Don’t be afraid to show your feelings, slow down and be present in life, speak your truth but with compassion and genuine care for the feelings of others, do things that make you feel uncomfortable, and spend time getting to know who you really are. When you are clear on your values, integrate them into your conversations, your actions, your behaviours, your habits, your modes of thinking, your decision-making, and how you live your life more broadly. Getting clear on your values is one of the keys to living a purpose-led, extraordinary life.
- Always live by your values. Never compromise them. By doing so, you can lead a life that’s authentic to you. If you’re unclear on your values, look at how you spend your time and money. This will give you a pretty good indication. Also ask yourself “What do I believe and why” and “Who do I admire and why.”