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Leadership For Tomorrow

This month we look at the skills and attributes tomorrow’s leaders will need in order to succeed, drawn straight from the stage of the Sydney World Business Forum.


3 min

The rise of the humble CEO



The rise of the humble CEO

Discover the new wave of “humble” chief executives who lead by listening and last the distance thanks to innate creativity and curiosity

It shatters every cliché and hardwired notion about what it means to be a boss.

Forget the image of a chief executive working on a complex matrix of management tools; or worse, roasting employees for poor performance and demanding better results.

Consensus has emerged among global business leaders at the recent World Business Forum in Sydney on what makes for successful and effective modern CEO.

The image is of a humble, people-savvy motivator who uses positive culture change to achieve an organisation’s transformative goals and growth objectives.

Listen up

Melbourne Business School’s Professor Geoff Martin says CEO attitudes are changing as business leaders become more focused on the power of people skills.

“The thing that strikes me about the CEOs I interviewed at the World Business Forum in Sydney is what good listeners they are – they drip humility,” Professor Martin says. “We’re starting to see a whole new skillset we want in a CEO. You want someone with the emotional intelligence to stop, with all of your top management team, and say, ‘What do I need to do to bring employees along for the ride?’”

Professor Martin explains it’s a long way from the post-World War II days when CEOs and business managers limited their interaction with staff. It’s also different to the complex management consulting tools.

Learn from your customers

What matters is a human touch that extends throughout the organisation.

Author and founding partner of consultancy Peppers & Rogers Group, Don Peppers, who also graced the stage at the forum, said a good example was how a positive, people-centric culture could impact on customer service.

When you look at companies that are perennially successful, it’s very hard to find a common denominator – except all have extremely strong corporate cultures.

He explained that with more automation and digital service channels, customers were less likely to pick up the phone to call for help. “On the other hand, the more you successfully automate, the more important those call-ins are going to be,” he said. “Now, when the customer calls in, they’re going to be talking about something very important to them, something difficult. They’re going to require more engagement and empathy.”

Another example was Telstra, he said.

“Look at the cultural transformation of Telstra under [CEO] David Thodey, where Telstra became one of the world’s largest users of Yammer,” Peppers said. “Linking employees together in order to bring out their humanity and unleash their humanity – you don’t have to demand employees like customers, good employees want that to happen – you have to use technology to get out of employees’ way.”

This trend of positive corporate cultures, led by humble CEOs is a global trend.

“When you look at companies that are perennially successful, it’s very hard to find a common denominator – except all have extremely strong corporate cultures,” Peppers said.


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Gain insight through social media

Social media is already having a huge impact on the way companies are communicating with customers and partners, and it turns out that the new wave of CEOs is also highly connected online.

“The customer is now 100 per cent in charge of communication with the company and the marketing department is not – pure and simple,” declares author and business management guru Tom Peters, who wowed his World Business Forum audience with a passionate and lively presentation. “Your image and the response is being shaped on various bits of social media. It’s not the sort of thing where the social media guy ought to bring the CEO a summary report – you need social media so you can understand what’s going on.”

Peters believes that social media is an honest and authentic way for senior executives to maintain contact with staff, customers and suppliers, preventing the detachment that leads to poor decision-making.

Connected customers also figure as one of the primary motivators for change at the top: profits and “decency” are tightly connected, Peters said.

Prepare for the future

London Business School Professor Lynda Gratton says another dynamic is shaping the emergence of humble CEOs. New technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence will redefine and transform the employment market. As a result, Gratton believes many mid-level analytical jobs will simply disappear.

But it’s not all bad news.

“I predict that the sort of jobs that will be valuable and be very difficult for AI [artificial intelligence] or robotics to take over are jobs that require what humans do best – creativity, innovation, complex collaboration, hypothesis forming, and so on,” Gratton says.

For business leaders, and CEOs in particular, Gratton’s message is that this people-centric, humble attitude must be accompanied by excellent interpersonal communication skills and creativity. In the same way that robots have taken over routine physical activity in the 20th century, Gratton believes artificial intelligence will take over routine analytical roles in the 21st century. The jobs left to humans will be those requiring communication skills and the ability to solve problems in an unpredictable environment.

“You have to learn how to change,” Gratton says. “What we know about transformation is that it’s enormously helped by diverse networks. You would be wise to start building networks of people who are different to you, because somewhere in that difference is the person that you could become.”


Idea in brief

The modern CEO needs the emotional intelligence to stop and ask what they need to bring the whole company along for the ride

  • Use technology to support culture – don’t let it get in the way
  • The wrong corporate culture can be destructive
  • Don’t underestimate the influence of a great leader in creating a great culture
  • Great leaders are great listeners

Join the ranks of the leaders who listen with Telstra Collaboration Tools.

2 min

Ben Bernanke: “It’s good to be boring”



Ben Bernanke: “It’s good to be boring”

In 2008 when the global economy was on the brink of collapse, Ben Bernanke kept a level head and helped to pull it back to safety.

A lot has happened in the seven years since the United States economy went into a tailspin, and according to former US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, the global economy is in a safer place than it ever was as a result of the response to the crisis.


Between 15 and 22 September 2008, Lehman Brothers investment bank filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Bank of America bought the flailing Merrill Lynch, and Ben Bernanke, then chairman of the US Federal reserve went to the White House to ask for $US85 billion to save failing insurance company American International Group.

“It was never going to be very popular, but we needed to do something to prevent the crisis getting deeper,” Bernanke told the audience at the World Business Forum, held recently in Sydney. “The role of the Federal Reserve is to be lender of last resort, and so we moved to protect AIG, and also to protect against a run on the banks, which was a serious concern.”

Although he openly admits the move to protect AIG was not popular, Bernanke is keen to point out that the initial protection of the banking sector was backed up in 2009 with a series of “stress tests”, in which financial institutions were asked to demonstrate that they had taken measures to become more resilient.

It’s important to remember that sub-prime mortgages represented only a very small proportion of the overall financial sector. When they went bad, they triggered a massive failure across the financial sector because the rest of the system was not strong enough.

“..There was not enough capital in the banks to withstand a shock, even a small one.”


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These moves to support AIG, and the subsequent $US700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, which effectively bailed the financial sector out of the crisis, attracted criticism from all sides of politics. Describing the program as “the most successful and least popular financial program in US history”, Bernanke told the audience the measures taken have been validated by the slow but steady recovery, as well as the current state of the US economy and the global economy.

“Growth has been slow since the crisis, but there’s plenty of scope for the economy to keep going, and the financial system is now more stable than it was in 2008, because it has been tested,” Bernanke said.

He went on to highlight the fact that the GFC resulted in an economic decoupling, effectively pushing nations into different economic cycles, and creating more opportunities for business to hedge against failure.

“In 2008 everybody was going down and coming up together, and now you see different countries going up and coming down together,” Bernanke said. “What everyone should take away is that we’re in a better position than we’ve been before, and we can all look forward to a boring financial future – boring is good in financial markets, boring is what you want from your financial system.”

Do you have the systems to support you through a crisis? Talk to your account executive about Telstra Network Services.

2 min

Tom Peters on social CEOs, perpetual curiosity and Twitter



Tom Peters on social CEOs, perpetual curiosity and Twitter

Business guru Tom Peters says social media is fun, engaging and fundamental to success for senior executives

At the World Business Forum recently held in Sydney, septuagenarian Tom Peters shared insights into why leaders need to embrace new communications platforms, and actively remove themselves from their splendid isolation.

After more than 40 years working with leaders from the world’s largest companies, Peters says executives need to use every mechanism possible to keep lines of communication open, and maintain their curiosity if they are to remain competitive in a globalised business environment.

The customer is now 100 per cent in charge of communication with the company and the marketing department is not – pure and simple.

Talk to your account executive about the potential the cloud will unlock in your business.


The customer is now 100 per cent in charge of communication with the company and the marketing department is not – pure and simple. And your image and the response is being shaped on various bits of social media.

Unless you’re playing the game you have no idea what the – you know, it’s not the sort of thing where the social media guy ought to bring the CEO a summary report. It’s just not the way it works. You have to feel the tempo. You have to feel the pace. You’ve got to understand, you know, what’s going on.

I mean the difficulty which is, you know, when you’re looking at it maybe from a strategic standpoint, is a lot of isolated very senior people really don’t know how to be human beings anymore and that’s a little bit scary.

Social media is fun. Being in touch, it’s a joy. You are literally engaged 24/7 or whatever fraction thereof with the entire world and getting feedback of a sort that – that I – I mean I’m not the CEO of a 20 or 200,000 person company – the feedback I’m getting is so much more wonderful than it has been in the past.

All sorts of stuff is coming through Twitter. Social media is lovely, great, fun, fascinating and scarier than hell.

It takes 20 years to establish a reputation and five minutes to lose it and I think that the people who are running companies need to be intimately aware of that and really understand it – because I think there’s actually not much exaggeration in that. I’m not sure you could, you know, put an IBM out of business in five minutes but you can do an incredible amount of damage to even giant firms when something goes viral that’s – that’s unattractive.

I think organisations can really express a perpetual curiosity. And again I think that particularly in the executive suites, it may be there at some level but I think it gets lost – I think it gets lost over time and the problem with a giant company with rare exceptions like the example of Howard Schultz at Starbucks that I was giving, is the men and women, but men even more, get more and more and more isolated and the worst part of it is they don’t know it.

2 min

Steve Wozniak’s top 5 technologies changing the future



Steve Wozniak’s top 5 technologies changing the future

The man who co-invented the Apple Mac picks the technology winners that will change the way we work and play.

When Steve Wozniak first saw Atari’s game Pong, he experienced a creative spark that went on to define the future of computing.


Speaking at the recent World Business Forum in Sydney in interview with Brendon Riley, Telstra’s Group Executive, Global Enterprise and Services, Mr Wozniak offered his take on the next big innovations that will shape our professional and personal lives.

1. Self-driving vehicles

Topping the list are smart, self-driving or autonomous cars with advanced navigation technologies. Familiar on the roads of Silicon Valley courtesy of Google, Mr Wozniak said self-driving vehicles will soon be a “big thing”.

“I think after some period of time every manufacturer in the world will have self-driving cars,” he said. “The accidents will be so low there will be some laws against humans driving their own cars.”

Google believes its self-driving car will be ready by 2020, and is already in talks with vehicle manufacturers about mass-production. Google also reports its self-driven cars have already driven nearly 1 million miles.

2. Delivery drones

Drones are firmly part of the modern lexicon, with hobbyists and artists among the first adopters of consumer-grade drones.

Wozniak hopes some of the technical and legislative issues they present will be resolved so they can be used commercially. “I would love to order from Amazon.com and have it delivered to my home in 15 minutes,” he said.

3. Virtual reality

Virtual reality, or augmented-reality technologies, are taking off in computer gaming. Among the most intriguing, Wozniak said, is the Rift, a wearable virtual reality head-mounted display being developed by Oculus VR.

He said this type of technology will transform not just computer games, but will also augment other interactions with the real world, enhancing experiences like shopping and travelling.

Wozniak drew a comparison to the way he felt when spinning the navigation wheel of an iPod – it was a good user experience – and such compelling emotions will underpin emerging virtual-reality technologies.

4. Artificial intelligence

We are getting to a stage where it’s possible computers will begin teaching themselves, Wozniak said, noting this area of innovation is gaining considerable international attention. Yet he hopes computers will only ever reach the level of human intelligence to prevent the sort of downsides we typically see in movies and TV shows.

5. Computer hardware innovation

Wozniak expects further innovation in computer hardware, particularly storage devices, networks and the switching equipment that connects us to the internet.

He notes that it’s easy to overlook the role of hardware in a mobile and cloud-based world, but hidden away in server rooms are “huge, fast hard disks and solid-state disks doing all the work and telling computers what to do”.

Future developments will increase internet speeds, video downloads and make it easier to conduct online research.

Discover how emerging technologies can boost the productivity of you team with Telstra Enterprise Mobile Solutions.


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