Taking a step back to become a better leader

By Emily Hensby, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program

EmilyHensby_ThumbnailCan the public sector and the private sector work together more effectively? Can we as leaders go beyond our own perceptions and biases to make truly great decisions that impact society in positive and sustainable ways? What characteristics should a company director have? These were some of the key themes discussed during The Hon Nick Griener AC’s thought provoking breakfast talk delivered at University of Sydney Business School in July.

As future leaders from both the public and private sector, he encouraged us to step outside of the preconceptions we might hold about the purpose and value that each area brings to the table, and challenge the status quo. He prompted us to consider how we can use these new perspectives at the intersection of the public sector and private sector to achieve better quality outcomes for society. Communication and understanding are key.

As a current MBA student, I was inspired by Nick’s commitment to always striving to make high quality decisions through debating the merit of a proposal or plan in light of its contribution to the national interest – a high bar to set, but necessary for large scale projects or policies where the public and private sector’s interests need to not only combine, but be driven by an even higher purpose of what’s good for the society.

He prompted us to always step outside of what we know, and what we think we know, to ask if we are committed to a cause because it matches the expectations of our organisation or politics, or if it really is the best solution to the needs of the issue.

Nick also challenged us to think about the purpose and role of governance in organisations, recalling that in his days as an MBA student at Harvard Business School (in which he earned a High Distinction!) that Corporate Governance was barely a concept. He spoke of companies needing to apply corporate governance principles in a way that suits the scale and risk of their organisations. Interestingly, he cited one of the most important characteristics for company directors is to be courageous – to have the fortitude to do what’s best by the shareholders and the company, and to not be too hung up on applying the Corporate Governance guidelines to the letter.

Nick’s speech inspired me to think outside the walls of the organisation in which I work and think about the impact that even small decisions have on the customers and communities our organisations serve. If we can find the common ground between serving our customers and serving our communities, perhaps as future leaders we can all contribute to creating more impactful and sustainable solutions.

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