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7 Questions on Leadership with Andrew Swindell

Name: Andrew Swindell

Title: Enterprise Architect and Business Owner

Organisation: Diabetes Australia

I have been fortunate to work at 40+ companies over a 30 year career across Mining, Banking, Telecommunications, Insurance, Not For Profit and Government and at Strategic and Operational levels engaging Boards, Executive Teams, Technology, Business and cross functional project teams as a Consultant, FTE and Contractor.

I came through the Sales, Marketing, CRM / BI domains and understanding the importance of data into Information Management, Enterprise and Strategic Architecture and whole of business Operations, ERP and Digital Transformation.

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

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


Jonno White

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

I would say the most challenging and exciting opportunities as a leader come when strategy hasn't landed across an organization, when capabilities do not meet aspirations, when the organization runway and priorities are not clear or known.

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

As leaders, I think the journey is a very personal discovery of your own strengths to leverage, identify where your interests are and your skill gaps and weaknesses to mitigate.

I fell into and continue to perform different leadership roles at various stages of my career and don't think leadership is constrained to those who are at the head of an organisation. Even the CEO is led by the Board and shareholders and the market so we all have leaders to engage with and support generating some wonderful outcomes.

Different roles require different leadership traits and certainly I have generated the greatest outcomes when given the autonomy and organisation support from my leaders.

I became a leader in the early career days within a project, within a business unit and had a voracious appetite to learn, doing lots of study, become a SME, help others be successful and this helped expand my leadership roles and influence.

Whilst building strong architecture skills and success I also focused on the soft skills of leadership which provided a resilience and ability to engage with a wider group of stakeholders.

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

I run numerous strategy, planning and doing cycles through my head over various timeframes and looking to highlight and generate value for my teams, sponsors and leaders. The process of waking up, attending meetings, establish doing time, creating thinking time, being responsive, adaptable and helping others to be successful, focusing on wellness, social and family time all contribute to a vibrant work life.

In its rawest form, preparation is everything and I know roughly what my next day / next week looks like so when i wake up I walk the dog every morning with my partner with a clear plan, enjoy a smoothie and coffee and engage with meetings, with time spent according to demand on the above cycles.

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

So many lessons to draw on that its a constant set of ah ha moments when you look at the same issue from different viewpoints.

I would say the best leadership lessons I've learned are never assume - you might make an ass out of u and me - ask lots of questions - it engages others, brings them forward, creates a better outcome and you have two ears and one mouth.. Use them in that order.

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?

Without doubt one of the best books I have read and had a profound impact on my journey is Good to Great by Jim Collins.

So many learnings about organizational behavior from this book that has provided a wonderful script for taking companies forward and provided a blueprint for reviewing organizational opportunities and next steps.

Learnings from the hedgehog concept, flywheels and the power of alignment and momentum, crawl, walk before run and the importance of leadership at all levels of an organization has provided great insights and patterns to apply as an Enterprise Architect.

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

Sorry three pieces of advice

Build your network - there are so many learning opportunities available and the world is now connected so don't be constrained by any geographic or seniority boundaries. Most people are willing to share time and opportunity

Continuous Learning - have a strong appetite to absorb and engage with concepts, build your library, build your classifications of information / data - work that learning muscle so you can learn faster

Humility - standing in the shoes of others, you can go faster by yourself or better to go further with others, empower others, suspend your ego - it isn't a good master, just dance in a conversation, only apply commitment to a better outcome no judgement or attachment, manage your emotions - they impact others around you

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

A real insight into the machinations and important leadership role performed by Executive, Board and Senior Leadership Teams was a consulting assignment that undertook to lay out the building blocks for a business strategy and multi year technology uplift response.

Just engaging with the CEO and Executive teams, we were mindful that to develop a fit for purpose, funded, technology roadmap response we would need clarity on the business strategy, expectations, individual business unit responses and clear governance, delivery parameters and agreement on the business priorities to be addressed.

What we found was a disconnected business and leadership landscape and different interpretations of the business strategy with different priorities. Some leaders didn't recognize the business strategy in their Divisional responses, some business outcomes received 70% of the funding and others received zero funding. We had to dilute the technology uplift response until the agreements were put in place and the guardrails were clear.

From a Leadership perspective, I have seen good CEO's and Executive Teams hammer the business strategy message relentlessly (workshop after workshop, meeting after meeting) to test and ensure the message is relayed, understood and consistently acted upon. Getting everyone on the bus and moving in the same direction is the flywheel at work.

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