What does leadership mean to you and how do you define it?
Leadership is about identifying the right talent, building the right team, setting the direction and then getting out of the way. Getting people to work together and do what you want, is one of the hardest things of all to achieve. When you get it right, great things happen!
What is the most important lesson you have learned, from your personal or business life?
Culture eats strategy for breakfast! Creating strategy is futile unless you have a team that trusts each other and works together to achieve shared goals. I think you have to be alert to new ways of doing things and all ideas have to evolve. Change is continuous. But you need to know when to never give up and when to give up.
Is there someone who has had a major impact on you as a leader?
For most of my early career I worked for leaders who modelled themselves on Kelvin McKenzie, a former editor of The Sun newspaper in the UK, who was famous for his aggressive and demanding style. Combat management didn’t suit me, it made me very defensive. I chose to expect people want to do their best and to remove obstacles to this happening. It was in stark contrast to the management I experienced.
Have you experienced failure? If so, what did you learn?
Many times! The biggest lesson I learned from failure is that it’s not enough to be really good at what you do. For some time I believed that talent outs and I didn’t need to play the political game. You do. I missed out on a big opportunity because I didn’t have enough allies in my corner. I hadn’t brought people with me. Managing up is as important as managing down.
Who do you admire in the business world and why?
Alan Joyce of Qantas, who changed the culture of the airline on his appointment by creating a diverse management team with complimentary talents. I admire people who deliver change. A lot of people talk about it, but it is very hard to achieve.
What advice would you offer to new or aspiring board directors?
To women in particular, I would say to work on your confidence. Do not be afraid of looking stupid or asking a dumb question. You have value to add and you need to find the courage to speak up and show your knowledge.
If you were able to run one company, apart from your own business, which would you choose and why?
I am a journalist at heart. In my last role I had a wider business remit in a travel content company, but there is nothing as rewarding to me as uncovering truth, exposing wrong doing or delivering information that people did not know previously. I get a lot of satisfaction from developing an idea from a tiny kernel and seeing it to conclusion. I believe journalism is a noble calling, a necessary investigator of truth in a democracy and a vital tool for fairness We should afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. It is the only business I ever really wanted to be in.