Brian Schwartz: What Makes Great Leaders

Following the Socceroos (National Football team of Australia) Asian Cup win, Brian Schwartz (Deputy Chair of Football soccerballFederation Australia) was recently invited to give a talk on Leadership at a The Customer Experience Company breakfast event.

Brian is the Chairman of IAG, deputy chair of Football Federation Australia and The Asian Cup Organising Committee, and also Westfield and Scentre Group. Previously, Brian was CEO of Investec Bank and prior to that CEO of Ernst & Young Australia.

Brian opened his talk with “a bit of theory” from his own experience of what makes good leadership today:
1. A preparedness for change. Brian’s view is that you have to be dissatisfied with the status quo in order to drive change, that you have to be the change yourself, and that you need to find ways to bring others with you on the journey. As Brian quoted – “The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it” though interestingly that quote came from Elbert Hubbard, over 100 years ago!
2. A long-term mentor. Brian has been fortunate to have enjoyed good mentoring over his career – someone who can respond honestly to your situation, who you trust to ask “what would you do?”. Mentoring needs to be long-term, not just a one-year commitment.
3. Courage to do the difficult things. There are often situations where it can be hard or risky to take a course of action, to stick your head up. But in his career, even when it seems like a failure there have been significant benefits, and this courage keeps you fresh. “As long as you’re green, you’re growing. As soon as you’re ripe, you start to rot.” (Ray Kroc).
4. Good teamwork. Good leaders succeed because of good teams, and the weakest link in a team is usually a problem for the leader and the rest of the team. Brian doesn’t like “I” specialists, and the lesson he’s learned most in his career is to not leave the wrong people in a role – do the hard stuff quickly (he confessed that he is still learning this).
5. Values, consistently communicated. Leadership has changed since Brian started his career – from an autocratic do-as-I-say approach to a collaborative style. This means that values and culture are critical to bringing people with you. “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” (Mahatma Gandhi)
6. Succession planning. This is critical – and there is no better example than the technical team in the FFA, who impressed Brian with their plans for the team; for each player they had a list of current alternatives, plus a plan for the upcoming generation that can take over, plus insights into the younger generation and how individuals should be developed.

The complete write up on Brian’s talk given at the breakfast event can be found here.

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