Often the strong leadership traits of top business executives provides the defining shifts in success for many organisations. With The Economist reporting that Australia’s economy is going strong, it is vitally crucial now for businesses to keep up with the times and ensure they appoint leaders with the right experience to navigate a new generation of challenges and opportunities.
So who are some of the leading Australian business executives and entrepreneurs to watch in 2017, and what are the key traits and leadership skills behind their success? We look at five top names making a difference within business.
1. Martin Fahy, CEO, ASFA
Fahy, a former KPMG partner and head of FINSIA, was recently appointed as CEO of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA). Fahy has been described by the chairman of the ASFA as “independently minded and thoughtful", crucial qualities for any industry leader. He leads ASFA through a time of big changes for Australia’s superannuation industry, some of which the ASFA has been actively advocating for.
2. Maile Carnegie, group executive digital banking, ANZ
Carnegie left her former position as Managing Director of Google Australia to take a key role in leading ANZ’s digital experience. According to Business Insider, her leadership skills, track record for building brands, and talent for “attracting service-focused, technology-literate, innovative and experimental people” were the key reasons she was hired. With Australia’s banks competing fiercely over digital products, being innovative and having a passion for technology has enabled Carnegie to stand out in a competitive environment.
3. Simon Hackett, acting CEO, Redflow
Hackett, an internet entrepreneur, founder of ISP Internode and former non-executive director at iiNet, recently took the helm of battery developer Redflow at a critical time. Redflow, a rival to US giant Tesla, enjoys strong international interest in its ZCell batteries, which could see the Aussie start-up go global. With The Guardian reporting that Australians are currently paying significantly more for electricity compared to other parts of the world, Hackett and his team have responded by revolutionizing a battery concept originally designed for industrial and commercial industries, into a product application for the residential market. This innovative blueprint demonstrates not only Hackett’s understanding of consumer needs, but also his commercial acumen towards looking to the future of providing energy for many household users.
4. Claire Rogers, CEO, World Vision
In November, Rogers will become World Vision’s first female chief executive, taking over the reins from long-serving CEO Tim Costello. Currently head of digital banking at ANZ, she impressed World Vision with her ability to lead organisational transformation and enable a deeper engagement with customers. Rogers has been appointed to World Vision as “a modern, experienced digital change agent with a strong social commitment”. Not-for-profit organisations face the same pressures to evolve as other businesses, but often have fewer resources, presenting extra challenges for management. As CSR is increasingly critical for many organisations, experience in philanthropy and socially responsible work is becoming more important for executives.
5. Jane Sydenham-Clarke, CEO, Freemasons Victoria
Appointing its first female leader in 127 years is a modern move for the United Grand Lodge of Victoria, given the organisation’s predominately male membership. As a former Federation Square senior executive, Sydenham-Clarke’s role will, according to a report by the ABC, involve dealing with an ageing member base and engaging with junior professionals. But beyond that, Sydneham-Clarke has according to The Age recognised the symbolic nature of progressiveness within Freemasons Victoria, and her responsibility to both understand and connect with a new workforce generation. With emotional intelligence being described by the Harvard Business Review as a crucial skill of effective leaders, Sydneham-Clarke’s leadership will be one to watch in 2017.
What you can learn from these top business executives?
Innovative leadership: Being able to attract, engage employee motivation and inspire talented professionals is vital for building a successful company today. Companies want visionaries who can lead people and industries into the future.
Technology skills: With the Australian government backing a digital future for the economy, it’s clear that Australian business executives with technology experience are in demand. Companies have technology leadership at the top of their agendas, and plan to innovate internally as well as acquire new opportunities.
Commercial acumen: This is a skill that will enable a leader to view situations and make accurate business decisions. Business executives looking to step up, should have a firm grasp of the market, what’s in demand, and know how to reach customers.
Change agents: This critical skill is about being able to lead organisational transformation. Many of the above business executives step into their new positions at a time of big change management. Those who succeed in leading change – rather than reacting to it - will be the stars of Australia’s business world.
Emotional intelligence: Leaders are usually self- aware and are very tuned in to other people’s emotions. It’s a skill that enables a business executive to adapt to various situations and hold an exemplary position within the company.