Leadership for 2040

By Romaric Bouveret, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program

Rom BouveretIn early 1990 in South Africa, Nelson Mandela was still in prison and negotiations had just begun to end apartheid. At the same time in Australia, Bob Hawke became Prime Minister for the fourth time and Treasurer Paul Keating announced an economic recession. Today, after twenty-five years of radical changes in governments, and even revolutions, the political environment across the globe has evolved remarkably. While we expect constant renewal and innovation in political leadership, we expect business leadership to be an ongoing and uninterrupted effort. In the US for example, the average tenure of a CEO is around 10 years, two times longer than the average tenure of the president.

Most of my peers at the University of Sydney Business School praise the MBA program because they can apply much of their learning the day they return to their workplace. This is great because it shows that the learning is directly applicable to their professional career and organisation. For me, however, the MBA program also provides the framework to develop skills that will be required to lead public and private organisations in 2020, 2030 and even 2040. In fact, I have no doubt that the younger MBA students, who are in their 20s, are likely to still be managing organisations and leading people in 40 years to come! This is why an MBA program focused on Future Anything, like the University of Sydney Business School program, not only supplies tomorrow’s leaders, it also prepares future leaders by encouraging them to review, learn, evaluate, question, reflect and think.

In 1990, a British computer scientist called Tim Berners-Lee created the WorldWideWeb (www). It is predicted by many experts that by 2040 computers will be as intelligent as humans. In fact, Stephen Hawkins’ prophesy is that “computers will overtake humans with AI (artificial intelligence) at some point” and computers might even be more intelligent than humans by 2060. Given the technical and societal progress we have made in the last 25 years, it is legitimate to ask what work is going to be like in 2040. Is it going to be done by humans or computers? Is it going to be done in a shared office in a CBD or a lonely space station a few light years from the Earth, on one of the 20 billion livable planets in the Milky Way? What is life going to be like with self-driving cars, trucks, trains and planes? Will postcards and emails still exist?

It is probably impossible to seriously predict life in 2040, and everything we read today could be wild speculation. But MBA programs not only need to teach students how to tackle issues relevant in 2015, like diversity and flexibility, they also need to prepare leaders for 2040.

When asked to write about what qualities the leaders of today and tomorrow need to lead effectively, I first thought about IQ and EQ. I don’t know what leadership is going to be like in 2040 – which is only 25 years from now! But I think that a high “AQ”, “artificial quotient”, the intelligence with which we use computers, may develop and become imperative. Of course, leaders will still be people who hold high values, display authenticity, and help achieve goals and  success. But the people I will likely respect and follow are also those that understand the changes that occur around them. I believe that the MBA program at the University of Sydney Business School is giving me the tools to better lead people and organisations today, as well as culturing a framework for myself and  future leaders to continue to improve until 2040 and beyond.

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Some thoughts on strategy

By Professor Marc Jones, Strategies for Growth, The University of Sydney Business School MBA program

MarcJones1Strategic thinking is the ultimate competitive advantage that enables an organization to consistently make better choices than the competition.

Strategy is forward looking – it explains how you will achieve your vision in a manner which is consistent with your core values and raison d’etre. The essence of strategy is in articulating ‘where to play?’ and ‘how to win?’; decisions that align with a firm’s ambition.

During strategy development, the ‘elephants in the room’ need to be acknowledged in order to avoid baking toxic assumptions into the strategy.

Companies systematically overrate their degree of differentiation from their competitors; clear differentiation is more often an illusion than a reality.

‘Growth’ is not a strategy, it is a result. You don’t build shareholder value by focusing on shareholder value. You do so by focusing on your key customers, business model and employees. This is the principle of ‘obliquity’.

Unexpected stuff happens. Build flexibility into your strategy. In terms of decision making architecture, the organisational reflex should be to decentralise wherever possible to promote speed, ownership, and initiative. Centralisation should only occur in light of convincing evidence of substantial benefits.

Strategy development & design must be integrated with execution to maximise understanding, ownership and accountability. For any strategy, if you can accurately identify the top 3 things that need to get done to make it happen – and execute on them – your chances of overall success will be high. This is the ‘rule of 3’. An effective strategy will always incorporate a bias for action!

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The Devil is in the Detail: Aligning Values with Career Goals

By Lisa Tarry, Careers & Corporate Relations Manager MBA Programs, Management Education, at the University of Sydney Business School

Lisa TarryWorking as a coach to MBA students is a very rewarding role in that I help to figure out what shape their career paths might take. Each week I work with driven, focused, smart, funny, engaging, respectful human beings who are full of ideas and initiatives. And the best part? They constantly challenge me to do more, to do better, to think bigger and vice versa. Sure they have high expectations, but the joy is in working with them to craft outcomes, then gather feedback and tweak it to ensure it’s always relevant.

There is a risk in being tempted to switch off and enjoy the ride, by giving in to the demanding schedule of coaching, events, workshops and the day-to-day operations of a University Business School. That risk is that I miss capturing many of the lessons we learn together.

So this week, working with one aspiring entrepreneur, I was mindful of the ethical dilemma she was faced with as multiple offers of work came through, and she scheduled a call with me to discuss the specifics.

Should she take the role that wasn’t quite right, but that would pay her whilst she worked on her business?

On the surface, this might seem straightforward. Take the best role whilst working on your idea in the background. However, when you’re building a business, you need to think carefully about the implications for your personal brand and reputation. In the next breath she shared that if the right opportunity were then to emerge, it would make sense to take that and walk away. This is what didn’t sit right with either of us.

Honesty becomes one of your most important commodities. You must navigate seamlessly through these situations to arrive at an outcome that suits both parties; it can also set the tone for your future business dealings. How will you advise your staff in the future; what examples will you set as your business grows?

We are tested in these seemingly inane scenarios, yes, for the devil is in the detail, but also for the ability to cut through it and get to the issue.

We need to get clear on our values and show up in the world fully aligned with what drives us and why. Then trust that the rest will fall into place.

For this particular person, it was important for her to feel alive and to be overflowing with love and passion for life, work and her personal world.

The key here was for her to maintain this by owning the empowering act of starting her own business and using this to manifest how she wants to feel, and create the experiences in her life at both a personal and professional level.

Next, we acknowledged that she performs at her best when she is achieving and contributing to the communities around her.

If this spirit of serving others is out of alignment, her world will not be right. Sharing her situation honestly with the company presenting the opportunity, was the respectful thing to do – “I’d love to take it on and help you out, but it’s not quite what I’m looking for.  There are other opportunities that may come through and if they do, I would need to give you notice. How could that work for you?”

We also took into consideration that she is diplomatic, that she values justice and is not afraid to stand up for her values and for what is fair. Treating others in a similar way works well for her. Living a well-balanced life including financial stability is also something that she holds dear.

The additional area that required some coaching here was the strong desire for financial stability. Taking the role on offer, would inevitably stall her progress in the direction she wanted to go, but would provide immediate financial reward.  

We explored this further until she was comfortable with the idea of refusing to trade money for time. Instead she accepted that trusting in the process created space for the right things to emerge.

This woman was able to stand by her passion for enriching the community she operates in, and her commitment to bringing about improvements in the world around her. Big audacious goals, but by focusing and committing to the finer details of this scenario, she demonstrated integrity and the courage of her convictions.

As O. Henry (pen name of William Sydney Porter [1862-1910]) once said, “there is no well-defined boundary line between honesty and dishonesty. The frontiers of one blend with the outer limits of the other, and those who attempt to tread the dangerous ground may be sometimes in the one domain and sometimes in the other.”

Business is often about opportunity, presenting choices that test our integrity, our honesty – not only with others, but also with ourselves. Taking a pragmatic approach when presented with opportunities, we may find ourselves inadvertently manipulating the meaning of honesty to suit our situation. If we choose the idealist approach then, we must also look at how this fits with our values.

All important considerations, and a big part of what personal character is made of.

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Current MBA, Future [INSERT HERE]

By Georgia Knox, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program

150226_SydneyUni_SH04_11588The concept of future anything is actually quite a daunting one. Rarely do we allow ourselves the luxury of such unrestricted thinking. Of waxing lyrical. Of dreaming big.

But why not? We live in a world that is rapidly evolving and generating endless possibilities in the process. And these are yours and mine to make the most of. So let’s do this – I’ll share mine and would love you to share yours.

My future anything is still as open-ended as the concept suggests. I do not want to insert a term too definitive in there just yet, if at all. That is because my career – and I guess life in general – to date is all about making the most of opportunities, many of which I did not envisage. And I am enjoying the ride immensely.

From a high-school dream of being a journalist, I came to realise that the media landscape was changing quicker than I could learn about it. So I attempted to future-proof myself by combining my media aspirations with legal qualifications via an undergraduate media/law degree. Ten years later, I had completed the degree and been a summer clerk, graduate and lawyer at one of Australia’s top law firms.

But my interest in media remained. So when an opportunity for a very diverse role with APN News & Media came my way, I jumped-in head first… even though I’d had very little to do with the industry since my undergraduate days. After more than three incredible years full of challenge and change at a company with media assets predominantly consisting of radio, outdoor advertising and newspapers, I now find myself in a purely digital content business that is owned by one of the world’s biggest tech companies. Hold up. Reverse back two paragraphs and 13.5 years. I would never have thought that this would be my future anything!

Looking forward, the concept is not just about me. While I am hesitant to be too certain about my future, the world is not slowing down. We need to position ourselves to be able to work hard, have fun and lead effectively within it. So future anything becomes an even more complex and compelling proposition, as it connects the individual to their organisation, their society and beyond.

With that in mind, I know that my future anything consists of roles that I will feel fulfilled in – both personally and professionally. It means that I will be challenged on a daily basis, and challenging others in the process, so that they too can be the best that they can be. It also means that I am contributing to the broader world around me, serving those who need it and making decisions that matter. The roles could be Fortune 500 Board Director, Mayor of Sydney, Vice-President of a global tech company, leader of a local not-for-profit or many others, including an endless array of those that I have never heard of, or better still, don’t exist yet. As long as I am in the position to make the most of the best opportunities that come my way, my future anything is a bright one.

Find out more about the University of Sydney Business School MBA .

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Is who you are your business?

By Belinda Coniglio, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program

So much has happened since my last blog about Shanghai and the Sydney MBA Ball at the end of 2014 (thanks EMBAssy for organising a fabulous night!).

A new contract saw me return to Canberra to work for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) at the beginning of 2015 and enroll in Financial Management and Managing People and Organisations, bringing me two subjects closer to the halfway mark of my MBA.

In the past year, I have lived in over half of the states in Australia, which works out to moving just under every three months. While driving Canberra – Sydney – Canberra every Wednesday evening to attend the remarkable Professor Ford’s financial management classes may sound crazy to some, I feel truly alive and on my path, even on the days when I wonder where the road will lead. Lucky I am a minimalist!

You could also say my life gives a new meaning to going with the flow and redesigning your workspace – Professor Maurizio Flores would be proud of me for using the technology at hand and my flexibility to create ‘the workspace of the future’, which comprises my Macbook, iphone, credit card and table at a café – and thanks to Wifi TLC Fremantle, where I commenced work with an entrepreneur who gave me an opportunity to learn about business and build my own brand – Ideas and Impact.

Working as this inspiring young entrepreneur’s business development manager included strategic advice, sales and marketing, strategies for growth and even managing a cafe to contribute to systems and procedures. I did this, practised law one month (my passion for justice and advocacy had never died) and was exposed to a whole new world of entrepreneurs, mainly in small business.

And then DFAT called – like a former lover, causing me to spend the summer break in Perth asking myself, ‘would I be going back to an old relationship?’ Maybe DFAT was a love that would always have a special place in my heart or the relationship that was not quite over, and I was not prepared to let it be the one that got away.

As Assistant Director to the New Colombo Plan Secretariat, a signature initiative of the Australian government’s foreign policy that awards scholarships and grants to Australian students to study in the Indo-Pacific region, my role was to provide strategic communications and engagement for the public diplomacy team and included speaking with recipients of the New Colombo Plan scholarship and mobility grants about their study abroad and aspirations.

Perhaps some of the student’s aspirations resonated with my own, making me realise that I had already become much more than the young girl whose dream was to be a diplomat. The confidence that I gained through my professional experience, the MBA and the incredible people I have met made my return to work at DFAT feel like going back to an old relationship.

For so many years the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had been my driving force, my reason, my why. Taking six months from the corporate world to start my business had reconnected me with my creative spirit and I discovered that there were so many more ways to show the world all of me.  My business services deliver tailored projects across strategy, marketing, advocacy, negotiation and business development and advisory – yet there is no limit to the ideas or the impact! There is a corporate social responsibility arm to develop to advocate for mental health and a campaign to ignite the public perception of the conventional lawyer to be seen as a savvy, practical and a trusted adviser to business.

Reinvention is critical to business success and the past few months have given me the necessary space to reflect and to redefine my business, which is more than an idea or a model, it is about who I am, what I bring to people and to the world.

What is your journey – has the evolution of your business helped you realise your true potential, your passion, or is who you are your business?  Tell me your story and what you bring to people and the world.

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Current Work of the UNITED Nations Commission on International Trade Law for Micro-Small and Medium Enterprises

By Diane Chapman, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program 

I have just had the opportunity to participate in UNCITRAL’s newest Working Group for Micro-Small and Medium Enterprises (WGI) in Vienna in their autumn. Here, countries and their delegations convened with international experts and NGOs to collaborate on new international standard law for incorporation and registration of MSMEs. This international mandate is currently being developed to enhance access for micro and small businesses in developing countries to enable them participate in more formalised and international markets.

Traditional business models have presented barriers for MSMEs, as their establishment has been expensive and they generally face prohibitive compliance costs, over regulation and high relatively liability in cases of insolvency. In response to the last Working Group session, a paper was prepared to analyse best practices around the world for business registration and incorporation. Research found that standard registration forms and fees, minimum capital requirements, unique business identification numbers and minimal judicial or notarial involvement in registration were highly important.

Ex-ante and ex-post checking requirements for business registration and incorporation were discussed at length at this new session, and countries were fairly divergent on this issue, along with use of notaries and level capital requirements to incorporate.

Participation in this amazing new work with the United Nations is currently being undertaken by around 48 nations. The enhanced access of these laws will provide a wide-reaching and internationally recognised method of engaging in business for the benefit of developing economies, with particular focus on small to medium sized enterprises being formally recognised through international standards and providing them with the benefits of legal validation and enhancement of rights, engagement and methods of enforcement.

I am looking forward to attending the third session of the MSME Working Group at the United Nations Headquarters in New York this coming April, and the subsequent experts meeting where we will begin preparing the first draft of the new international laws for incorporation and registration of MSMEs. I hope to share the experience and developments as they unfold.

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One weekend in and the journey towards self-awareness begins

By Natalie Cope, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program and BOSS Emerging Leaders MBA Scholarship Recipient 

NatalieCope2-(2)You know those moments when you realise you’ve been walking around in a cloud of blissful ignorance? Suddenly, the cloud breaks, and you find yourself on the ground, clear of reality in all its visceral detail? Well my friends that was me at the end of the first weekend of Leadership Practice and Development, and the first full weekend of my MBA. And just what was the detail that came into full view I hear you ask? Well, it was simply me, myself and I.

Had you asked me before the event how I expected to feel at the back end of my first weekend, I’d have probably quite glibly and confidently stated I expected the outcome to be, “oh inspiring and challenging but ultimately rewarding”. The truth though, is that I could never have anticipated the emotions I encountered and the realisations that came to the forefront.

I often talk about wanting a challenge and being outside my comfort zone. The first weekend took me to that place, and beyond. As you would to strengthen a muscle, we were repeatedly required to do reps; to perform exercises that forced us to see ourselves, and to do so from every vantage. If you are truly open to this experience it is both uncomfortable and confronting. Learning about you is hard. Harder still is truly appreciating the impact that you and your behaviour have on those around you.

Prior to the weekend, I spoke about wanting to develop greater self-awareness, while quietly believing I already had a good understanding of self, or at least a conceptual understanding of self-awareness. However, I was wrong. I had not previously appreciated nor properly understood the extent to which the manifestation of ‘self’, whether through your strengths or areas for development, can and do affect those around you. An ability to influence when optimized truly can mobilise the best efforts, excellence and energies from others. Not employed with caution, an ability to influence will overwhelm and exclude many.

Transition this to a real life organisational context, and you begin to appreciate just how critical a genuine understanding of self, and your impact on others really is to effective leadership. While challenging, this was an incredible and immensely valuable transition for me to make. To move from conceptual understanding to genuine appreciation has now armed me with a revised perspective and with it the ability to change. This I hope inches me a little closer to becoming the best possible me, so that I can bring out the best in others.

The first weekend was a powerful and awakening experience, the insights and learning of which I am still grappling. But the best thing about being brought back to ground zero is that the only way is up. This really is the beginning of a journey, one I am glad to be on, and the road ahead appears a lot more appealing when you know that you are joined by a likeminded cohort who are equally committed to this experience and determined to grow.

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