7 Questions with Ross Piper
Name: Ross Piper
Current title: CEO
Current organisation: Christian Super
Ross Piper is the Chief Executive Officer of Christian Super. He has over 25 years of leadership and management experience in corporate and non-profit contexts. Prior to Ross’ appointment as Christian Super CEO in January 2018, he was Chief Operating Officer with World Vision Australia and also served with World Vision International for several years in the Middle East and various countries of the former Yugoslavia.
During his career Ross has held a number of positions in the corporate sector, primarily in investment banking and mining. He was Head of Corporate Risk for Macquarie Group for several years, and his early professional experience was gained in Indigenous communities and the mining sector, where he worked in the area of Native Title and community enterprise development. He has served on several boards, including six years as a Director and Board Chair of AgroInvest Foundation, a large microfinance bank serving rural families in Serbia and Montenegro. He currently sits on the Boards of the Responsible Investment Association Australasia (www.responsibleinvestment.org), the Fund Executive Association Limited (www.feal.asn.au), Cinnamon Network Australia (www.cinnamonnetwork.com) and SEED (www.seed.org.au).
Ross’ formal qualifications include a BSc (Geophysics), GradDipEd, and MBA (Deakin University).
1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?
My growth and continued learning in leadership is how to effectively lead and develop others with the right balance of truth and grace. In my career I’ve worked in different commercial and not for profit organisations that may embody one of these dimensions in a fuller measure, but in my view transformational leadership comes when you can embrace and lead with truth and grace in all circumstances. Truth with no grace does not reflect a Christlike organisational culture, but nor does grace with no truth, as there is limited scope for people to grow.
2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
My career has crossed over from the commercial to the not-for-profit (and back again) several times. I’ve worked in the mining industry, investment banking, aid and development and now lead a Christian pension fund in Australia (Christian Super), which is a recognised global pioneer and leader in ethical and impact investing. The common element in my career is that I’ve often found myself working at the intersection of commercial and development organisations, seeking to work with communities for positive impact.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I like to run, surf and ocean swim, especially early in the morning. Getting out in nature at some point during the day is always encouraging, and I enjoy finding moments of ‘awe’ in God’s creation. Prayer or reflection on scripture for me is often ongoing through the day, rather than a structured time each day. I’m not particularly good at sitting still for too long!
4. What one book had the most profound impact on your church leadership? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
There are many significant books I’ve read, but the one that has been most impactful is ‘Falling Upwards’ by Richard Rohr. The book challenged me deeply (and still does) about a leadership identity that is grounded in a posture of surrender and a knowledge of my fallibility and weakness. The book talks about the fact that transformational leadership is not actually about us at all, but rather our ability to surrender to God and depend on Him.
5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Culture eats strategy for breakfast! Getting team fit, engagement and culture right trumps technical capability and a beautiful strategy any day.
6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?
I’m a strong advocate for the importance of identifying and mapping leadership ‘talent’ in a church or organisation, and intentionality creating development and ‘stretch/growth’ opportunities for emerging leaders. Also to have the wisdom to know when to let emerging leaders fall or fail, as there can be transformative learning and growth through these times. Always be willing to ask the question is there someone who is better suited to lead a church or organisation for the next season, and be willing to create the space for them to do this!
7. If you had to pick just one story, what would be the most meaningful story from your time as a church leader so far?
When I was a younger leader my wife and I served in Montenegro in the former Yugoslavia for some years. Part of our work involved construction and management of refugee camps for many thousands of Roma people displaced from Kosovo. I learnt a great deal about communities in deep distress, the innate human resilience to survive, and also how to navigate complex politics of discrimination.
Our season in Montenegro taught me that leadership is all about bringing the best of our intellect, wisdom and experience, but with a posture of deep dependence on God. His plans and purposes go far beyond anything we can accomplish. Our time serving in Montenegro and also later working with leaders of many faith traditions across the middle east, eastern europe and central asia, has given me a deep appreciation for the power of faith as an enabler for community development and transformation.