On Thursday 27 October, the Centre for Leadership Advantage (CLA) hosted the first event in a series of thought leadership functions exploring a range of topics relevant to leadership, executive development, change management and more. The CLA team were excited to welcome a range of guests on the day, including CEOs and Executives from private, not-for-profit, ASX-listed and government sectors in our network, all of whom were looking forward to hearing from our special guest speaker, Mr Brian Cook, CEO of Geelong Football Club.

The morning started perfectly as Melbourne produced one of its most spectacular spring days – a rarity at the moment and the CLA office was abuzz with excitement as finishing touches were being made. In true Melbourne Spring Racing style, “we were off” as we made our way down to The Westin, an oasis nestled in the heart of the Melbourne CBD.

Brian is regarded as one of the most successful and highly respected Sporting Administrators in Australia, having spent the past 16 years as CEO at the Cats and in that time he has implemented and overseen one of the largest transformations in business operations that the club has ever seen. Brian has led the club to achieve significant financial success, with a recorded $1m average profit every year since taking his position as CEO in 1999. Most importantly, in that time, Geelong has played in four Grand Finals and taken home the Premiership Flag three times, their winning record of 144 games from 2007 to 2013 is an AFL/VFL record – making them one of the greatest teams of the modern era.

As much as Brian (and I’m sure guests) would have enjoyed talking football all afternoon, Brian shared his views and experiences on a range of leadership topics relevant to his journey. He described why Geelong have been so successful in turning around the club’s financial position; and, the leadership style and approach he has adopted which are at the core of his success. He spoke at length about his time at Harvard Business School completing the Advanced Management Program and the lessons he learnt about leadership, values and the importance of purpose. What resonated with many was Brian’s’ interpretation of Bill George’s, author of “True North”, definition of a 21st Century Leader believing that…

“Authentic leaders align people around shared mission and values and empower them to lead, while serving all stakeholders, and collaborating with others”.  

Brian spoke about taking these valuable lessons and implementing them at Geelong and how he particularly invested his energy in creating a culture within the club that was values-based.

When addressing the success of the Geelong Cats, he stated that the team’s zealous competitive advantage stems from a short but very important list of actions.

1 – Attract and develop great people

2 – Develop and implement great plans

3 – Develop great leadership

4 – Develop great constructive culture

To take a business from good to great, leaders need to invest their time and energy in developing those within their teams and building their own greatest assets.

Our guests enjoyed asking Brian a range of questions regarding his experiences at Harvard and sought his opinion on hot topics in football such as the Essendon Football club and also the success of the recently launched women’s league.

The CLA team had a wonderful time catching up with familiar faces and thoroughly enjoyed welcoming new guests to our event. We sincerely hope all who came along had a wonderful time and we look forward to hosting further leadership events in the coming months.


The CLA team with Brian Cook.

The CLA team with Brian Cook.

CLA Lunch

CLA Lunch


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