He graced the cover of The CEO Magazine in an uber-suave navy-blue suede suit with matching bow tie after being crowned 2018 CEO of the Year. Now, fast-forward a year and Mark Nielsen is sharing his lessons learned from the next talented set of executives in the running to be awarded the prestigious title.

In front of a grand ballroom filled with hundreds of top business leaders all dressed in their finest black-tie attire, the Talent International CEO and 2019 Executive of the Year Awards guest judge explained how winners can optimise their award for the greater good.

“You can make a meaningful difference to parts of your company’s culture and scale initiatives you are passionate about,” Nielsen explained. “For me that is around two things – driving thinking around not just tolerating but embracing diversity and ensuring people can bring their whole selves to work. From personal experience, that turns fear to confidence.

“The other key passion of mine was to gain traction for our foundation Talent Rise, which supports and provides job opportunities for young people with barriers to employment.”

Through the recognition gained from being awarded 2018 CEO of the Year, Nielsen was able to get his foundation heard. He spoke at the World Employment Conference and on various panels and, as a result, Talent Rise placed more than 200 young people into work with an 81% retention rate.

While Nielsen undoubtedly inspired fellow executives last year, it was he who was influenced by the applications he was tasked with judging alongside business leaders Colleen Callander, Jose Da Silva, Dave Fenlon, Georgie Harman, Ronni Kahn, John Karagounis, Pip Marlow, Suzy Nicoletti, Ron Santiago, Glen Sealey, Chris Dutton and Susan Armstrong.

“Being a judge at this year’s Executive of the Year Awards gave me the opportunity to learn from the thinking and ideas of our Australian and New Zealand leaders who drive a diverse range of businesses,” Nielsen shared with guests at The Palladium Crown, Melbourne on Thursday evening. “The applications were exceptional.”

Being able to learn from the phenomenal business minds was one of the highlights for Nielsen, who sparked an energetic buzz in the room during his engaging speech, further adding to lively atmosphere of the highly anticipated awards ceremony.

“Take the time to savour your achievements,” he said. “This is recognition for all of the sacrifices you have made in getting to the top of your field.”

Mark Nielsen and judges
Mark Nielsen and his fellow judges arrive at the 2019 Executive of the Year Awards

Three things Mark Nielsen learned as a judge

The 2018 CEO of the Year found many slices of inspiration from applications, but this is what really resonated with him.

  1. As a CEO you can’t delegate culture.
  2. If you are not authentic and vulnerable as a leader, how can people have a meaningful connection with you?
  3. Digital transformation should be woven into the fabric of the business – it’s ongoing and is not a sideline project. The CEO needs to own it.

The CEO Magazine’s 2019 Executive of the Year Awards was held on 14 November at The Palladium at Crown, Melbourne. Here is the full list of winners.