“Being a leader is a long list of moments,” said business leader, deputy chair of the ABC and author Dr Kirstin Ferguson, starting the high-octane conference with a deep dive into the characteristics of ethical leaders.
The property industry is dependent on “bold courageous leadership” because “the work you do has tangible impacts for generations,” Ferguson argued.
Ferguson examined three case studies – Boeing’s engineering breakdowns that led to two fatal airline crashes, a poor strategy at Nokia that sent shareholder profits into freefall and serious employee misconduct at banking giant Wells Fargo – each a cautionary tale of failures of corporate leadership.
Ferguson urged the audience to recognise the role each of us make in the decision-making of our organisation, and the legacy of our own “personal leadership”.
“It doesn’t matter what your position title is, whether you are the CEO or a team leader. We all have an impact on culture, regardless of what it might say in our business card.
“We talk a lot about lack of trust in institutions, but every institution is made up of a collection of individuals.”
What can we do to build and retain trust?
Dr Ferguson unpicked the results from the most recent Edelman Trust Barometer 2019, which surveyed 33,000 people from 27 countries on their views of trust. Sixty-five per cent ranked a company technical expert as “very credible”, while the company CEO had just 47 per cent of people’s trust. A regular employee scored 53 per cent. A “person like me” scored 61 per cent, which Dr Ferguson said went some way to explain “why fake news can be so hard to counter”.
“It takes trust to build trust,” she said, pointing to Harvard Business Review’s survey of 87,000 business leaders from around the world which found three “clusters” at the foundation of trust: positive relationships; good judgement and expertise; and consistency.
“Every single action you take is already being judged for the leader you are and for the leader you could be.”