Leadership is an ability that can always be improved. When asked about key skills one should have as a world leader, former US President Barack Obama said, “Ask yourself – how can I make the people around me do great things?”

We asked senior executives from a variety of businesses what qualities they think a good leader has:

Andrew Moore, Managing Director, Renault Australia

“What’s important to me is that respect is earned, not expected. Being a leader means doing the best for the people around you rather than just giving orders and expecting everything to happen. A leader has to communicate a vision and make visible progress towards that vision, no matter how long it might take. In business and in life, I believe you have to get out and make it happen, rather than waiting for something to come your way.”

Andrew Moore
Andrew Moore, Managing Director, Renault Australia. Image credit: Renault Australia

Darren Eather, Director, Wickham Freight Lines

“There are many parts to being a good leader. Communication is extremely important. As is leading by example and empowering people to make decisions, and take ownership of their individual roles in the business.

“As leaders, we need to ensure people have a full understanding of expectations, and to provide feedback and measure performance. Take an interest in what is important for individual success and development, but ensure the business goals and strategy are clear with all members of the team. Support for all team members is essential so ensure effective two-way communication.”

Kevin McCoy, CEO, Independent & Assisted Living, Australian Unity

“I believe in walking the talk, leading by example, and not saying anything I don’t plan to deliver on. Leaders aren’t afraid to hire people who are better than them at certain things – they recruit people to fill gaps and add value to the company. They’re not afraid to take risks.”

Peter Cook, Managing Director, Westgold Resources

“A good leader is only as good as the people they have under them. Recognition is the biggest form of motivation in the world. When people in our organisation do a great job, they’re recognised both financially and informally. Leaders are risk-takers, particularly in the mining field. Leaders understand that people can achieve the same outcome a different way to them – that doesn’t make it wrong. You have to aggregate a bunch of different skill sets.”

Shane Fitzsimmons, Commissioner, NSW Rural Fire Service

“Authenticity is critical. If you want people to work with you, trust you and understand that you believe in what you say, then you’ve got to be authentic. Even leaders need to rely on others to help them make decisions and fill knowledge and skill gaps. A leader never thinks they’re better than anyone else. If it becomes about you, then I think you’re in the wrong role.”

Shinya Yamamoto, CEO and Managing Director, Chandler Macleod Group

“In my view, a good leader is always a simple and logical thinker, has a strong and principled management philosophy and, most importantly, is always ready to take responsibility.”

Phyllis Ong, Group Deputy CEO, Armstrong Industrial Corporation

“First, you need a tenacious vision because you need to believe strongly that it’s possible. Second, you need to have the courage to succeed as well as fail because, in this journey, you will both succeed and fail. And third, which I think is very important for good leaders, is the habit of thinking, reflecting and learning.”

Phyllis Ong
Phyllis Ong, Group Deputy CEO, Armstrong Industrial Corporation. Image credit: Yew Kwang

Vesmond Wong, Chairman and Group CEO, DeClout Limited

“To accomplish something big, you cannot work alone. No matter how capable you are, you need the talent and expertise of others. A true leader is humble, treats everyone with respect, and actively seeks the advice of others. If you supress others and refuse to receive well-meaning advice due to arrogance, you will experience defeat.”

Toni Brendish, CEO, Westland Milk Products

“I look for diversity in thought and experience in my leaders. Resilience – or a real ability to keep tackling difficult problems – counts, and so does the desire to develop people.”

Paul DeMand, CEO, Cosmo

“It always starts with vision, and includes excellent judgement, decisiveness, integrity, energy, and the ability to bring out the best in people.”

Jacqueline Porjé, CEO, 6IXTY8IGHT

“A good leader is someone who inspires you, listens to you, and can coach and develop you to reach the next level in your career. I hope to inspire women by showing them that it’s possible to be a mother and a CEO – you don’t have to choose.”

Tarang Gupta, Managing Director, Dutch Lady Milk Malaysia

“A good leader is people first, simplicity next. If a leader can focus on their people before their business, and on removing complexity in the business and infusing simplicity, they have done a good job.”

Rajiv Warrier, CEO, Choithrams

“A good leader must have a clear vision, be able to delegate and develop other leaders, and be a good communicator. They must be able to work in and lead teams, have a positive attitude, and strategically plan the organisation’s future.”

Tomas T de Leon, Jr., CEO and President, LBP Insurance Brokerage, Inc.

“You need to point people in the right direction, motivate them, push them, encourage them. Money is not really an effective motivator. It motivates in the short term, but it does not have a lasting effect. What truly motivates is a job well done and the satisfaction that you’ve done something good for others.

Tomas T de Leon, Jr.
Tomas T de Leon, Jr., CEO and President, LBP Insurance Brokerage. Image credit: Jasper Salceda

Jeff Wellburn, Managing Director, Probuild QLD

“The key aspect of a good leader is an understanding of people. Empathy combined with self-confidence and conviction, and an ability to look ahead strategically.”

Kevin John Hudson, CEO, AYTB

“The role of any leader is to recognise and articulate the reality they are in. Too often, leaders avoid saying hard things to people, but the first job of a leader is to paint a true picture of where they are. The second is to derive a strategy, in collaboration with their team, and clearly articulate that strategy, as well as initiatives to support it, to everybody.”

William Ma, Group Managing Director, Kerry Logistics

“First, it involves being a good listener and understanding the positions, feelings and priorities of others. But in our business, there is no hero. We need to have a good team of colleagues working in different locations and understanding customers’ requirements.”

These business leaders reveal who inspires them and why.