AFR Fast Starters 2020

In March 2020, Centre for Leadership Advantage (CLA) were humbled to have placed 68th in The Australian Financial Review Fast Starter list for 2020, representing Australia’s fastest growing companies. Following on from an interview with CLA Co-Founder and CEO Dr Marcele De Sanctis earlier this month, CLA Client Partner Aliki Stathopoulos sat down with CLA Co-Founder and Org Psych veteran Terry Coyne. In this interview, Terry shares his vision for launching CLA, and after forty years in the industry, how he’s seen the landscape change. 


AS: Terry, you’ve had a successful career as one of Australia’s best known Organisational Psychologists. What was the catalyst for launching CLA?

TC: After nearly 30 years of working in the leadership space, I felt that there were still some missing pieces in the leadership landscape that can be met and need to be met by our profession. The story is not fully told – many leadership fads have come and gone, but some practices have been shown to demonstrate the test of time.  You will find that those ones that have really stood the test of time are the ones that are founded in the great science. They draw on human principles that can be demonstrated, replicated and above all else provide the meaning for the way leaders interact with their enterprises. By way of example, the things that have stood up are fact-based leadership (data-driven decision-making), values-based leadership (the collective face of the organisation) and the emotionally intelligent leader. CLA exists to keep this type of “people” thinking at the forefront of “business” thinking. Why? Because we know it works.


AS: Has your drive to build leadership capability changed over the years?

TC: Leadership is a teachable and learnable construct. For some leaders, it’s learning by observation. For others, it’s direct experience. And for another group, it’s through academic, formal learning. Applying the 70:20:10 model, what’s common for each of these constructs is the way you acquire information about the decisions you make, the style you adopt, and the unique approach you offer.  Because of the human aspect of each of these, they can all be shared and communicated. In the well-known Jim Collins book, “Good to Great”, reference is made to Level 5 leaders, the ones who have a compelling mix of humility and fanatical purpose. These are not accidental outcomes.

In keeping with the Good to Great thinking, we at CLA have established a fanatical purpose for leadership, and appreciate its building blocks,  key drivers, and the things that sustain them. My goal has always been to translate some of this complexity into tangible behaviours and leadership approaches on a day-to-day basis. 


AS: Terry, what would your advice be to leaders currently navigating this period of uncertainty? 

TC: There are many things that leaders can, and must, do to navigate challenges. On a daily basis, we will all receive lots of information and tips on how to best navigate this circumstance. At this point in time, one important thing that leaders throughout an organisation can be doing, is to revisit those values-creating workshops that were conducted over the last 10 years. You know, the ones where you came up with your ten core company values. In other words, before trying to create something new, look back on what you said then and see what you’ve got to work with.

Strong organisational values are the attitudes, behaviours, and operational mechanisms that inform and drive our organisational decisions. Put simply, “the way we do things around here.” Now look at your list of organisational values, and form a checklist of the things you ought to be doing. By way of example, a value that always features on most corporate walls, is Respect. How does this play out in a “work from home” environment? 


AS: Reflecting on your experience in launching, running and then selling the Coyne Didsbury business, how has the field of Psychometric Assessment evolved over the last 20 years?

TC: Science and fact-based approaches to organisational decision-making (including the selection and development of your people) will continue to be of paramount importance. The research tells us that people vary markedly in their capacity to perform in a range of roles. We also know that within any defined role, the capacity to perform varies significantly – and this is where good assessment has a  role to play. Initially understood as the Factor of 5, we know that there is a quantum of difference between your best performing people, and your average performing people. Valid assessment enables you to objectively discern where those differences lie – be they IQ or EQ.


AS: What is it that keeps you going?

TC: I knew CLA was going to be a successful business when it was confirmed that we could continue to make a significant difference to the new organisations we work with. Working with Government, by way of example, I have recently learnt that leaders within Government have the same passion and thirst for knowledge about their own impact and legacy as a leader. Coming from a strongly corporate background, this has been a revelation and supported my thinking about great governance for our community. 


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