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Qantas marketing chief, Olivia Wirth, tells young executives of the complexities of modern leadership

12 Aug 2014


Pictured L to R:
Olivia Wirth, Group Executive, Brand, Marketing and
Corporate Affairs, Qantas; Professor Greg Whitwell,
Dean of the University of Sydney Business School;
Joanne Gray, Editor, BOSS Magazine
©Alexander Mayes Photography

Finding your passion, empowering teams and being comfortable with accepting advice from others are fundamental to the highly complex role of modern leadership, according to Olivia Wirth, Group Executive, Brand, Marketing and Corporate Affairs at Qantas.

Speaking to an audience of aspiring business leaders taking part in a BOSS Emerging Leaders event, Olivia spoke passionately about her role with Qantas and her own career journey.

Reflecting on one of her first jobs and a boss who was incredibly generous with knowledge and trust, Olivia said that, "She got the best out of me. Creating great teams and achieving great goals requires information sharing and trust."

"I absolutely believe you need to empower teams," she said. "Leaders need to be able to relinquish control and let the team get the job done."

Olivia further highlighted the importance of growing diverse teams, saying that leaders need to be surrounded by experienced individuals, and should be comfortable with their own weaknesses and willing to seek out advice.

She commented on the challenges of being in executive leadership as a young female, and candidly spoke about how she has always sought to have "grey hair" on her team to make up for her youth.

During a Q&A period with Joanne Gray, Editor of the BOSS Magazine, Olivia discussed the challenges and opportunities her team has faced in navigating some of the most difficult media and public relations issues at Qantas in recent years. She emphasized the importance of internal leadership and communication in responding to an ever changing media and social media environment.

The event was part of the BOSS Emerging Leaders program, a leadership initiative launched in 2012 by the Australian Financial Review BOSS Magazine, in partnership with the Business School.

The Emerging Leaders program provides up and coming leaders with the opportunity to network and gain business insights from Australia's foremost business and leadership experts. The program includes four keynote speaker events and two master classes at the University of Sydney Business School each year. Members of the program also have access to mentorship with leading business executives and professionals.

A key feature of the Business School's MBA program is its focus on developing the personal and professional skills needed to succeed in an increasing complex global business environment.

The Dean of the Business School, Professor Greg Whitwell, concluded the event, expressing the deep commitment of the Business School to recognise and develop Australia's next generation of leaders.

"The Business School is delighted to be partnering with the Australian Financial Review BOSS Magazine for the delivery of the BOSS Emerging Leaders program, and we look forward to seeking out and supporting Australia's next emerging leaders with the recent launch of applications for the BOSS Emerging Leaders MBA Scholarship for 2015," Professor Whitwell said.

BOSS Emerging Leaders program
For more information on the Emerging Leaders program and details of upcoming events, please visit the BOSS Emerging Leaders website.

BOSS Emerging Leaders MBA Scholarship
Find out more about the BOSS Emerging Leaders MBA Scholarship, and how to apply for the prize package of $60,000 to complete the Sydney MBA. Applications close 22 September.