Leadership Profile: Raynuha Sinnathamby (Managing Director, Springfield Land Corporation)

What motivated you to join the Leadership Council?

It’s quite apparent that despite Australia’s population being so culturally diverse, there continues to be both an unjustified and undignified lag in being similarly diverse at a corporate level. For me, the Council represents a welcome opportunity to help push the accelerator, and to shout-out that it’s simply not good enough to watch idly from the sidelines while Australia misses out on the obvious economic and social benefits of having an inclusive multicultural workplace and business leadership that mirrors that.

How, in your opinion, does Australia compare to other countries on the issue?

As with some other progressive issues, we’ve been slow to grow and bridled at times by our enduring historic ties to the country’s Anglo background and a one-time protectionist white Australia policy that was easily suited to a prosperous and politically stable hard-to-get-to island without porous borders. Nevertheless, we are seeing a trending increase in Australia’s multiculturalism at a corporate senior level thanks to a growing appreciation of our disparity with nations like the USA and the emergence of Councils like this one.

What are the major obstacles to progress on cultural diversity?

Community apathy which allows our government and corporate leaders to believe that there are more important problems to solve. This is fundamentally caused by a lack of education on the subject and little understanding and appreciation of what the social and material benefits are from being culturally diverse and inclusive.   We also have to break down the unconscious bias that exists in many workplaces.

Have any of your personal experiences shaped how you think about diversity?

I’ve watched the industry slowly but gradually change to better reflect both cultural and gender diversity and as a managing director of a company that depends on innovative and broad thinking and experience at every level, I’ve worked proactively to ensure that we have a multicultural and gender diverse workforce and leadership.

What does success look like for the Leadership Council?

It’s telling that when you look at the Council membership and the incredibly rich and diverse breadth of experience and backgrounds that they have one primary measure of success that unites them:  Improving the representation of cultural diversity within the leadership of Australian organisations. If we can help achieve this then we will have succeeded.

What does leadership mean for you?

Leadership means being able to encourage others towards a collective rational goal by example and by valuing the input, energy and individual diversity of each person in your team.

Who are some of the leaders that have inspired you?

Gandhi because he changed the world without resorting to violence but with rational persuasion and an unyielding sense of social justice.  Maha Sinnathamby and Bob Sharpless because of their commitment to improving human and social capital.  Rick Dennis for his strong leadership and fundamental understanding of relationship building.

What are the biggest challenges facing Australian society today?

The lack of a strong narrative about who we are as a nation, what we stand for and what we aspire to achieve. In my view this absence reflects an ongoing lack of centralist thinking and policies which would better unite our diverse population rather than polarising us into political paralysis.

 

Leadership Profile: Luke Sayers (CEO, PwC Australia)

Luke SayersWhat motivated you to join the Leadership Council?

Diversity is important to me not only personally, but also professionally. I lead a firm of more than 7,000 people, all from different cultures and backgrounds, and we are very focused on providing an inclusive environment for all our people.

It’s important to have a voice on social issues which impact our people, and the Leadership Council is raising important issues that affect our whole community. It also provides an opportunity to learn from what other organisations are doing to drive cultural diversity, as well as share what we are doing at PwC to create a diverse and inclusive culture.

What does success look like for the Leadership Council?

The Leadership Council has a role to play in raising important issues in the public debate and then bringing all sectors of business and government together to find solutions.

Success for the Council comes from employers across Australia sharing and adopting strategies to enhance cultural diversity in their workforce.

Have any of your personal experiences shaped how you think about diversity?

I have personal experience with diversity of a different kind and that’s disability, with one of my daughters having Down Syndrome. What I have learnt from her is that everyone has an enormous contribution to make if you are open to a different perspective and way of doings things. We focus on her abilities rather than her disabilities and she inspires me to do everything I can to help every individual who works for PwC to reach their full potential.

How, in your opinion, does Australia compare to other countries on the issue?

Australia is a multicultural society. In the last census, more than 300 languages were spoken in Australian households and 100 religions practiced. Our clients and the markets we operate in are becoming increasingly diverse through globalisation and technology. Cross-functional, multicultural and multi-geographical teams are now the norm.

To remain relevant, our workforce must reflect this globalised and diverse environment.

Diversity also drives new ideas and new ways of thinking which benefits our clients and creates a more dynamic and interesting place for our people to work.

What are the major obstacles to progress on cultural diversity?

Unfortunately, one of the biggest blockers is the unconscious bias we all carry with us where we make decisions without challenging some of our underlying assumptions. At PwC we have created an interactive learning experience called Open Minds, which provides our people with an introduction to the concept of unconscious bias, and strategies you can use to effectively reduce its impact.

Government and business need to work together to make sure that diversity is front of mind for our leaders and that strategies are implemented that filter down to the whole of society.

What does leadership mean for you?

Leadership is about being out in front, often where no one else has been. A good leader needs to have a clear vision and an end goal but you need to be adaptive in how you get there. It’s important to listen to your people and maintain an open, learning mindset.

Leadership is also about creating an environment that enables people to succeed and have a positive impact on society.

The culture and values of an organisation are paramount and they directly impact your success and ultimately your reputation.

Leadership Profile: Tony Johnson (Managing Partner and CEO, Ernst & Young)

Tony Johnson

What motivated you to join the Leadership Council?

As a child a sense of fairness was important for me, even it was only in my subconscious.  It was important to me that everyone got a fair go and an equal opportunity to participate – whether it be in the classroom or outside, particularly in the playground.

I firmly believe that fairness is an important attribute of a leader, and one I take seriously.  By joining the Leadership Council I have the opportunity to learn from others and also to positively impact EY (and the broader community) by creating a more inclusive environment and opportunity for all our people regardless of their cultural identity.  It means that more of our people will achieve their full potential – it’s just the right thing to do.

What are the major obstacles to progress on cultural diversity?

In many ways Australia is fertile ground to progress cultural diversity in the workplace but there are obstacles, from the practical to the unseen. Cultural misunderstandings can lead to stereotypes and bias, while wider societal progress needs to take place at the same rate of change as the workforce to achieve true equality at work.

We need more leaders who are educated and trained to understand the value of cultural diversity and who identify, mentor and sponsor culturally diverse talent.

Have any of your personal experiences shaped how you think about diversity?

The experience of leading our financial services practice in Asia Pacific – managing more than 5,000 people across eight countries and many more cultural backgrounds – gave me a great insight not only into the cultural differences but the synergies and value that came from bringing together diverse ideas and thoughts in an inclusive manner.

I have witnessed the importance of all people being able to see their potential future via visible and relevant role models. I have learned that leaders speaking, demonstrating and committing to inclusivity initiatives makes a huge difference to the outlook and confidence of all people, but particularly for those from diverse backgrounds.

What does leadership mean for you?

For me, leadership means being accessible, authentic and fair.

It means creating a workplace where everyone can individually achieve their full potential – enabling us to collectively thrive.  From a cultural perspective, it also means recognising when I need to flex my leadership style to one that is relatable for everyone, including culturally diverse people.

Who are some of the leaders that have inspired you?

I have been fortunate to observe and learn from many leaders – I’ve seen the good things and sometimes the not so good!  While it’s too hard to single out a few great leaders I’ve learnt from in my career, they all have some things in common.

The good leaders inspire and motivate and are generous with their time and support, understand people’s individual aspirations, and engage in authentic conversations.

What are the biggest challenges facing Australian society today?

Australia is a fantastic country; there is nowhere better to live, but we have our challenges.  The biggest include creating opportunity for all – more jobs and real wage growth will increase our prosperity and help with a more even distribution of wealth. Diversity of thought is a key enabler of innovation which is imperative to improving our productivity and surviving and thriving in a disrupted world.