Can a Good Leader be a Servant?

Posted on: Monday, 29 August 2016 at 10:00:30 AM

Article from the AICC(WA) Signature Lunch at EY Perth, on 26 August 2016 featuring Mr Simon McKeon AO, Chancellor Monash University and 2011 Australian of the Year

In deference to previous speakers who have presented at the AICC(WA) Signature lunch at EY on leadership related subjects, Simon McKeon AO captured previous themes of sportsmanship, economic development, corporate philanthropy, and technological advancement, as he shared his perspective on contemporary leadership.

From L to R - Mr Paul Kordic, AICC(WA) Board Member, Principal and Notary Public, Cullen McLeod Lawyers, Mr Boaz Nol, The Australian Representative, Tel Aviv University, Mr Simon McKeon AO, Chancellor, Monash University and 2011 Australian of the Year, Dr Patricia V Kailis AM OBE, Founding Director, MG Kailis Group, Ms Nicola Forrest, Chief Executive Officer, Minderoo, Mr Peter Gilmour, Managing Director, Irongate Wagyu, Mr Michael Rundus, Partner - Perth Advisory Leader, EY, Mr John Cluer, Chief Executive, Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (WA) and seated - Dr Harold Clough AO OBE, Chairman Emeritus, McRae Investments Pty Ltd


Event host and sponsor EY was represented by Mr Michael Rundus, Perth Advisory Leader, who noted Australia’s connectivity to Israel through the drive of innovation. Mr Rundus also facilitated dialogue that drew participation from the diverse body of students whose AICC(WA) sponsored attendance provided a rare and special opportunity to both network with business leaders, and to hear a privileged keynote address.

Mr Michael Rundus, Partner - Perth Advisory Leader, EY

The event was also addressed by Mr Boaz Nol, a distinguished Israeli entrepreneur and former diplomatic advisor, who has recently taken on the role of representing Tel Aviv University into Australia.  He spoke of mirror and accelerator programs between Israel and Australia, noting the opportunities for Australia to grow export markets.  As well as commenting that Israel has much to learn from Israel, Mr Nol asserted that innovation in Israel is established as global enterprise from day one, as an economic necessity.  He further invited his audience to visit Israel “to meet people, have a good time, and even make some money.”

Mr Boaz Nol, The Australian Representative, Tel Aviv University

Simon McKeon, whose humility belies his enormous contribution to Australian business, society, academia and culture, provided a stirring address on the virtues of leadership.  Although he acknowledged it was a commonplace topic, the unique perspectives brought by each person, “all of us, leaders in our own way”, always bring forward new insights.  In an economic context he also suggested that new industry leadership is not as hard as some make it out to be.

Much admiration for WA business leadership was highlighted by Mr McKeon, which he suggested was well noticed on the eastern seaboard.  Delivering particular accolades to Dr Harold Clough, Dr Patricia Kailis, the McCusker family, the Forrest family, and the Wesfarmers board, he discussed the funding contributions that provide leadership development.  “WA is noted for its contribution, and economically will become even more relevant to a world of finite resources.”  He further discussed the importance of connecting to the community, commending Dr’s Fiona Wood and Fiona Stanley for according public leadership in this regard.

“Even with wonderful vignettes of leadership, it is never enough,” Mr McKeon said.  “Too many people are not inspired to transform their own contribution into meaningful leadership”.  He further suggested that leadership often requires a person to move beyond their comfort zone and beyond what they do well.  “It is not all about great orators, but about contributing to your potential through your actions”.


Mr Simon McKeon AO, Chancellor, Monash University and 2011 Australian of the Year

Having led an AICC trade delegation to Israel in 2015, Mr McKeon shared some observations from this experience.  He first cited many common attributes that the two countries share; a strength in human capital, a need to propel business development across a small population and economic base, and allowing a combination of creativity and resources to drive new industry.  He then identified Israel not only as an example of technical capability, but of community and culture.  Sharing his insight of Israeli national identity, shared pride, and meaning within jobs across all sectors of society, he noted that in Israel, there is a national ambition to contribute, participate, and champion the business culture of the Start-Up Nation.

The need for visibility in leadership was also a theme of Mr McKeown’s address.  In the presence of his former boss and former Federal Science Minister, Mr Chris Evans and Mr Peter Gilmore, whose shared sailing expertise was of tremendous inspiration to his understanding of leadership, some anecdotes were shared about how to get the best out of challenging situations.  Referring also to his experience during his tenure at the helm of CSIRO, Mr McKeon noted the importance of leaders needing to step up, especially during moments of crisis.  He shared his learning that there are different ways to lead, and that on occasions simply sitting and listening to people during a time of need can be the most important and appropriate initial response to crisis situations, stating;

We are leading a different lifestyle to the one we were a generation ago.  We have made leadership in this country harder than it needs to be.  Let’s get back to basics and focus on being role-models.  Leadership is not about self, and it is not about simply navigating through difficult situations.  It is however about making hard decisions for the best outcome, and setting standards to aspire towards”.

Mr Michael Rundus, Partner - Perth Advisory Leader, EY and Mr Simon McKeon AO, Chancellor, Monash University and 2011 Australian of the Year

During Q & A Mr McKeon talked further about displaying resilience, and how to further enhance boardroom leadership.  A strong and longstanding advocate for boardroom diversity, Mr McKeown talked about varied perspectives.  He posed that the antidote to the tall poppy syndrome was sharing and that good leaders “say what they think and really mean it”.  He also suggested that the evolution of an innovation culture takes time to deliver results, and that a short-term culture of investment return remains an inhibitor.

Mr Boaz Nol, The Australian Representative, Tel Aviv University and Mr Simon McKeon AO, Chancellor, Monash University and 2011 Australian of the Year

Further discussion about the distinction between management and leadership training in the academic sector was also raised as a critical topic.  Mr McKeon described the function of management as “creating order out of chaos”, but noted you don’t need to be a manager to be a leader.    The leadership role often creates tension between that of being a leader and being a servant. 

He concluded “It’s not always about charisma, in fact sometimes charisma is not what is required.  It’s about the role that we play, the honest conversations, and the satisfaction of supporting those around you to achieve to the best of their ability.”

Mr John Cluer, Chief Executive, Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (WA) and Mr Boaz Nol, The Australian Representative, Tel Aviv University

From top left clockwise - Dr Patricia V Kailis AM OBE, Founding Director, MG Kailis Group, Mr Peter Gilmour, Managing Director, Irongate Wagyu, Dr Harold Clough AO OBE, Chairman Emeritus, McRae Investments Pty Ltd and Ms Nicola Forrest, Chief Executive Officer, Minderoo


Mr Simon McKeon AO, Chancellor, Monash University and 2011 Australian of the Year


Simon McKeon Profile:

Simon McKeon is Chancellor of Monash University and was also the 2011 Australian of the Year.

Simon recently retired from Macquarie Group after a 30 year career culminating in his position as Executive Chairman (Melbourne Office). He continues to be retained by Macquarie as a consultant.

Simon has degrees in Law and Commerce from the University of Melbourne and prior to joining Macquarie, practised as a solicitor with Blake Dawson Waldron (now Ashurst) in Sydney.

He is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a member of the AICD’s Chairman’s Forum.

He is an Australia Day Ambassador for the Victorian Government. He served as a Business Ambassador for the Northern Territory Government from 2013 until 2015.

Simon is the inaugural President of the Australian banking industry’s Review Panel for the Banking and Finance Oath. He was the 2011 ABF Australian Banking Ambassador of the Year.

Simon has been Chairman of In2Science, a science based mentoring program for schools, since 2013. He also Chairs the Group of Eight’s Industry and Innovation Board.

Simon is a member of The Big Issue Advisory Board, served on its Advisory Board for Melbourne’s successful tender for the 2008 Homeless World Cup and chairs its Advisory Board for its Asian World Cup Involvement. He is also a member of The Big Issue’s Homes for Homes Investment Advisory Group. He has also been Chairman of Essendon Football Club’s Hutchison Foundation and Patron of Melbourne’s successful tender for the 2009 World Parliament of Religions.

Simon served as the Chairman of CSIRO between 2010 and 2015. He was also Chairman of the Federal Government’s Panel which in February 2013 completed a Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research. In 2015, Simon was conferred with an honorary Doctorate of Public Health by La Trobe University.

In 2015, Simon led an Australian Israel Chamber of Commerce Trade and Innovation delegation to Israel. He serves on the AICC’s Advisory Council (NSW).

He was Chairman of AMP from 2014 until 2016 and of MYOB from 2006 until 2009.

Simon served on the Board of UK based VisionFund from 2004 until 2012 which has responsibility for World Vision International’s micro economic development activities and also served on the Federal Government’s Human Rights Grants Scheme Advisory Panel from 2009 until 2013. He was also a Patron for the United Nations Year of Microcredit 2005 (Australian Committee) and AusAid’s Business Engagement Steering Committee from 2011 until 2013. Simon served on the Board of World Vision Australia from 1994 until 2005 and prior to this was a Director of the Archbishop of Melbourne’s Relief and Development Fund.

He also served on the Board of Global Poverty Project Inc from 2009 until 2014 and was Chairman of Global Poverty Project Australia from 2009 until 2015.

Simon was also, from 2006 until 2014, Chairman of Business for Millennium Development, which focuses on encouraging business to pursue poverty alleviating opportunities in the developing world.

He was appointed by the Federal Government as the Founding President of the Australian Takeovers Panel and served from 1999 until 2010. He was also a member of the Editorial Board of the Company & Securities Law Journal between 1988 and 2012 and had responsibility for its Takeovers Section.

Simon was the Founding Chair of MS Research Australia from 2004 until 2010 and has also previously served on the Boards of MS Australia and MS Victoria. In 2010, Simon received the John Studdy Award which is MS Australia’s highest honour. He currently serves as Patron of MS Research Australia and as an Ambassador for National Disability Services (Victoria). He served as a member of the Victorian Government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme Implementation Task Force between 2011 and 2013 and was a member of the inaugural Board of Bio21 Australia.

He previously served on the Board of Red Dust Role Models which connects well known Australians with indigenous youth. He now serves as a Patron.

In 2013, Simon received Research Australia’s Leadership and Innovation Award and in 2014 was awarded the Australian Academy of Science’s Academy Medal.

Simon served on the University of Melbourne Campaign Board from 2013 until 2015 and was also a member of the Strategic Advisory Board of the University of Melbourne’s Graduate Program in Law. He has also been a part time lecturer with the University’s Masters of Applied Finance and Masters of Laws courses and has been a member of the Advisory Board of the University’s Centre for Energy and Resources Law. In 2011, Simon was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the University’s Faculty of Business and Economics.

Simon served as Chairman of the Board of the Association of Independent Schools of Victoria from 2005 until 2008. He has previously served on the Victorian Rhodes Scholarship Committee, the Council of St Leonard’s College and the Board of Beaconhills Christian College.

Simon served as Chairman of the Federal Government’s Point Nepean Community Trust from 2004 until 2009 and has been the Business Ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour initiative and an Ambassador for Parks Victoria’s Healthy Parks Healthy People International Congress 2010.

Simon is the helmsman of Macquarie Innovation which in March 2009 became the first sailboat in the world to sustain more than 50 knots and in so doing, peaked at a speed of 100 kmh (54 knots). Previously he was the helmsman of the Yellow Pages Endeavour which held the outright world sailing speed record between 1993 and 2004.

He was also the helmsman for Australia’s Little America’s Cup syndicate which held the trophy from 1985 until 1996. He is a Founding Patron of the Australian Olympic Sailing Team which won 2 gold and a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 3 gold and a silver medal (and was the leading sailing nation) at the 2012 London Olympics. Simon sails out of McCrae Yacht Club and served as Club Captain from 2004 until 2006.



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