Last week I attended a roundtable breakfast with five other CEOs from a range of prominent organisations to discuss the changing face of business leadership in Australia. The event was chaired by (Fairfax) BOSS Magazine Editor, Joanne Gray and I was joined by:
- Matt Barrie, CEO, Freelancer;
- Peter Birtles, Managing Director and CEO, Super Retail Group;
- Kate Burleigh, CEO, Intel;
- Bill Pulver, CEO, Australian Rugby Union; and
- Ann Sherry, CEO, Carnival Australia
The discussion centred on a range of topics from a recent whitepaper written by Change2020, a management consulting firm in Sydney that specialises in leadership, business, culture development and change management.
Despite the very different nature of each of our businesses, there was a great deal of agreement over the challenges that each of us face in managing people.
With a number of CEOs having to steer their companies through the aftermath of the GFC, there was consensus that resiliency is a critical trait of any leader in having to deal with the continued economic uncertainty and constantly changing business climate.
Matt Barrie of Freelancer and I shared a positive outlook toward change and uncertainty which have been factors contributing to the strong growth in both of our technology businesses. It was fascinating to hear some of Matt’s war stories in building the Freelancer business.
Picture: Myself (left) and Matt Barrie of Freelancer
Others such as Intel, Super Retail Group and Australian Rugby Union represented businesses that were more about responding to change and the entry of new competition into their markets, prompting some interesting discussion about life as a challenger versus a business that was defending a market position.
Business leadership and shifting demographics
One of the other big topics for discussion was the shifting demographics in the workforce and the potential conflict that exists in uniting baby boomers, Gen-X and Gen-Y staff, the former who stereotypically grew up in a command and control management style, the latter often described as shunning authoritarian leadership styles and responding better to more inclusive workplace cultures.
We talked about the casualisation of the workforce and the need for leaders to embrace flexible work arrangements and the challenges in developing strong workplace cultures when working conditions and staff expectations were changing so rapidly. We also compared notes about female leaders in Australian business and we all agreed that diversity was an important goal to achieve.
One of the scariest statistics for me in the study by Change2020 is that of the companies surveyed, 37% of all respondents said their boss was not a great leader. That suggests that many companies have some way to go in developing their managers to cope with the changing landscape of business culture.
Keep an eye out for an article in July’s edition of BOSS Magazine when the key discussion topics over this breakfast will be written up in a feature article.