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Chief Executive Officer Australia's Address - American Chamber of Commerce Melbourne

Good afternoon and thank you for the warm welcome. It is a real honour to be here. 


The Chamber has been an important part of the Australian business scene for 47 years now. But as an American-born, Australian businessman it holds special significance for me. 


Now I don’t want to scare you with coincidences but let me just point out that 47 years ago almost to the day Hawthorn won the VFL Grand Final and Australia was in a short lived recession. It was the first grand final the Hawks had ever won and broke a 36 year drought. 


So compared to long-term Hawthorn supporters I guess I feel a bit humbled trying to give you advice about leadership in tough times. 


What I’d like to do today is share with you the lessons I’ve learnt about managing in tough times, as someone who has been fortunate enough to watch some great leaders in action. 


And from what many of you have said to me before we sat down, I know you’d like me to give you our views on what’s going on in the financial world and how that might play out in Australia over the next year or two. 


You know, these two points—the fundamental changes going on in the world today and leadership in tough times—are of course intertwined. 


As we know, a business leader’s management style has profound implications for his or her firm’s ability to create and sustain a productive organisational culture. But the right approach to this very much depends on the context in which we are leading. 


Let me give you an example… 


Henry Ford saw the need for affordable transport. Cars before his time were luxury items built by coach-builders to individual order. Ford took the idea of assembly line production and coupled it with the idea of paying his workers a wage that allowed them to afford a car. This worked so well that by 1918 half the cars in America were Model T Fords. 


Henry Ford’s success was related to his dogmatic and hard-nosed management style. Like many leaders he believed his most significant adviser should be himself—and for a time, he was right. But as a result he missed the transformational changes that were happening within the automobile industry and the buying public, which allowed Alfred Sloan’s General Motors, and many others to rise. 


The point is that Henry Ford failed to adjust his leadership style during pivotal moments in his company’s history.

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