Select Page

I love the events at the Crescent Institute –  an informal, unpretentious, no-hidden-agendas forum to listen and speak to Australian thought leaders from across the business, social and government arenas.

Last Thursday – 26 September 2013 – the Crescent Institute hosted David Thodey, CEO of Telstra. Between the free-flowing conversations, meeting new people and catching up with friends, I had the pleasure to listen to insights from the leader of Australia’s largest telecommunications provider.

David Thodey at Crescent Institute

Having never actually heard David speak before, it was easy to see why he heads an organisation which last year generated $25.4 billion in revenue and had a reported EBITDA of $10.2 billion. Without pulling punches, skirting around questions or trying to appease political sensitivities, he provided a lucid, honest and light-hearted account of what it means to run a company that is, to a large extent, almost pivotal to the technological success of Australia.

Among the discussion of topical issues, the history and future of Telstra and the context of technology within the Australian economy, I picked up some interesting insights about David’s leadership and management style. Fairly standard textbook stuff around change management, especially during difficult decisions:

  • Be open, honest and transparent
  • Plan well, retrain as many people as you can, and treat everyone with respect
  • Recognise that you have many stakeholders and are responsible for the long term

What struck me was that it didn’t feel like something that he had rehearsed – it was in response to an unmoderated question from the audience and it felt completely sincere. This was also completely congruent with his overall discussion, as well as his demeanour throughout the event – warm, approachable and personal … authentic.

Side note: I’m currently very annoyed by the “authentic” leadership bandwagon … but that’s a post for another day.

His other reminder about dealing with the constant increase in pressure on your time: “Plan to plan”. While “doing” is great, you need to put some time aside to “think” about what and why you’re doing what you’re doing, and whether you’re going in the right direction.

He even chatted with me about my Nokia Lumia 925 Windows Phone. What a guy!  And no … I wasn’t asking about the Amber Update – I already got it earlier this month. Smile

David Thodey and Syed Ahmed

All in all, I was very impressed. I have no doubt that he’s a tough, determined and demanding leader – as one would expect from someone who has reached the position he has – but at the same time I couldn’t help but be drawn in by his humility and infected with his obvious excitement for what lies ahead.

Check out the Crescent Institute’s picture gallery for more pictures of the event.