top of page

7 Questions on Leadership with Jeremy Foster

Name: Jeremy Foster

Title: Country Manager

Organisation: Tech Mahindra - New Zealand

Married for 23 years now with two beautiful daughters and a wife who continues to put up with me. We enjoy adventuring and the family photo is just before walking the Queen Charlotte Sound walk on the Northern tip of the South Island in New Zealand.

Some excerpts from my LinkedIn profile:

Servant leadership approach learned in the NZ Army Officer Corps and tested across many roles, industries and cultures.

My passion is leveraging simple frameworks, while engaging people, to solve difficult problems. Especially where customers are involved!

Never one to shy away from sticky challenges, I build trust through transparency and share my knowledge and experience to the benefit of all.

25+ years across technology (predominantly in ICT and Telco), innovation and entrepreneurship. From start-ups to large multinational corporates. Significant international experience outside of New Zealand, including the Middle East and North Africa, Europe and the US.

Expertise: strategic planning & execution, sales & marketing, customer success, coaching & team development, creativity & innovation, cloud & mobility, regulation & policy, international & cross-culture business, public speaking & pitching.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Jeremy's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

For me, the most challenging aspect of leadership is continuously adjusting from being directive to participative to free reign.

I honestly believe that we get the most innovation and ownership from the team when they're tackling issues and driving the outcome themselves. Inevitably, things don't go 'according to plan'.

This is just recognising the dynamic nature of life, so I'm regularly asking 'why would the team lean in to take advantage of an opportunity, or proactively mitigate a threat? It's ownership.

Sometimes we have a crisis and at that time, the team needs to have a leader who will 'put themselves in harms way' to navigate the moment.

I typically have two thoughts in my mind when I'm working in a crisis. Firstly, I have to look after the team. Secondly, how did I not see this crisis coming and proactively prepare for it with the team?

I think all leadership operates on a continuum between these extreme points. Super exciting and very challenging.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I think the first step towards leadership was to embrace being uncomfortable.

To that end, I put my hand up to become an exchange student and lived in the North of Sweden for a year as a 17-year-old. I learned a lot, and especially unlearnt a lot of what the world was like from a wonderful family I'm still very close to.

I then would eventually join the Territorial Force (NZ Army) where I would be exposed to leaders some excellent and others not so. I decided what I liked in a leader and then went through the ~2 month commissioning course which saw 32 of us start and 16 of us march out.

One idea that has prevailed is the idea of really listening to people when I could and I used this aproach in the corporate world to proactively listen and capture what people said and structure it so i could reflect and share it. I'm a pretty fast typer these days as a result! (but my hand writing has degraded terribly).

Finally I have always preserved the notion of the team actually owning the outcome of what they're doing as a leading KPI of success. If it's their plan, they'll try and make it successful.

More specifics can be found in my LinkedIn profile, which I keep up to date.

One piece of advice from a former CEO was 'If you're not sh!tting yourself, you're in the wrong job!'.. this has been helpful as a maxim to continue to embrace the uncomfortable.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

On an average day I'm up around 06:30. I try and exercise twice a week which would be a 06:00 wake up and a slow jog around the block (~5 - 7Kms).

These days I'm skipping breakfast during the week and I arrive at the office around 08:00. In my current role, the mornings are less busy as we're strongly connected towards Asia and India so I take advantage of the morning to get on with planning, admin or early meetings with customers.

The day will be a combination of strategy discussions, progressing initiatives or being a sounding board for the team either collectively or 1:1. I have a regular 'Keep In Touch' KIT session with all of our leaders so we can keep a level of informality in our interactions and do our best to be brutally honest about what's happening.

My day usually ends around 18:00 when I'll head home. I do sometimes have a work event or join work calls, however I work hard to ensure there's a real value out of that extra time investment.

If we're going to work a 12+ hour day, we can't do that regularly and it sets a bad example to do this too often so I have an out of office set up in my calendar post 18:00 so anyone outside of my time zone (we're the most advanced country in the world!) can see that I'm available by exception after hours in NZ.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

Velocity and Speed are not the same things.

Velocity has a direction, there is a why, the team will own the outcome if they're involved from the start. It needs a strategy and context to be successful. It also takes hard work and effort.

Speed is just hard work and effort.

Velocity takes more effort on the part of the leader but is so much more effective.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

The Wisdom Of Crowds, by James Surowiecki.

At time of writing, I've now read 60 books on all sorts of things. The Wisdom Of Crowds was one of the earliest that got me motivated to read.

In short, he extolls the virtues of listening to the crowd. To harvest their collective wisdom and warns against making them more stupid (than they would otherwise be) by giving them information that is naturally biased (because we all are).

There is a classic experiment where he tests 200 person maths class and asks for the no. of jelly beans in a jar. The guesses create a nice normal curve around the actual number.

He then tells the next class of 200 (same subject, same age, just an hour later in the day) 'Don't forget, there is air in the jar'. This flattens the curve as the audience over or under estimates the no. of jelly beans, despite the fact that Air has no impact on the outcome.

He makes them more stupid, which is potentially offensive to some, but I think we're more likely to take notice versus saying 'they became less smart'.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

What is the team doing when you're not around? Are they trying to make each other successful? Are they trying to make you successful?

The answers to these questions can only be that they are trying to make each other successful and you successful. You need to act, such that when you're not there, they are genuinely trying.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

To be honest, I've had some epic personal success adventures and I'm grateful for all of them.

At the moment, I am celebrating the moments when the team comes to me and says that they progressed something. That they found an issue, or an opportunity and just started working on it.

Something really important is getting honest feedback.

Recently I got feedback from one of my direct reports, that a line of brainstorming I took with a customer was heavy handed. That is, I was too enthusiastic and she said 'Jeremy, you're a pain in the @rse and you're annoying the customer'.

This was a surprise for me and I'd honestly thought I was engaging in a useful dialogue. Still, I decided that the feedback was honest and real and I should treat it as such.

I thanked her, immediately sent an apology to the customer and then a few days later, saw that customer and explained that I'd received this feedback and that I was sorry.

I also explained that my motivation was to improve his options by offering a counter position, but that in my enthusiasm for the discussion, I'd over done it and had gone from 'helping' to 'not helping'.

He was gracious enough to agree that I'd been enthusiastic, that it was over the top, and that he'd be more pointed at sharing that feedback in the future.

Time will tell if this was net positive, but it felt like the right thing to do.

bottom of page