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7 Questions on Leadership with Richard McInnes

Name: Richard McInnes

Title: Executive General Manager - Sport and Community Capability

Organisation: Australian Sports Commission

An innovative, solution focused leader who understands the only constant is change. He develops visionary strategies and applies innovative effective operating systems and structures to provide opportunities for customers and stakeholders. As a leader and mentor to staff, he provides a balance of challenge and support to people, empowering and enabling them to grow within their roles, developing leadership throughout the organization. A degree qualified sports scientist and former multiple World Cup winning coach, he is able to harness the strengths of multi-disciplinary teams to produce outstanding outcomes. He is also passionate about the identification and development of talent and creating a framework within which others can follow their dreams.

In multiple countries he has successfully led significant change management projects with emotionally invested stakeholders through high levels of personal engagement, communication and collaboration. He has a strong set of values built around integrity, trust, innovation and team first, and lives those through his leadership style.

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

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


Jonno White

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

The decisions that leaders have to make rarely have a right or wrong answer, only consequences. Leaders need to be comfortable with operating in this space and being able to communicate transparently, regarding the considerations made, tensions to be managed and be comfortable that sections of the community will not be happy with the decision and this may include staff as well. Secondly, finding the balance currently between allowing staff to be themselves and bring their whole self to work, to be flexible and accommodating, while still setting standards and expectations for performance and ways of working. I have embraced this, but as per the first point, it is a tension to be managed.

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

I don't think there would be a single defining moment. I would say, though, I have always adopted a "kaizen" mindset, even from an early age, where I always wanted to make things better and if no one else was doing that, I would try to initiate it. I guess when you do that and critically, others start to follow, or enjoy what you are delivering, by default you get perceived as a "leader". This has applied across many domains in my life, both in my personal life and in work life.

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

This has evolved over time. I used to be a real night owl and would do lots of admin work at night, but now, I do some of the best mental work first thing in the morning. I like to get ahead of the day mentally, so will punch out work early, before the rest of the team get going and then the day is spent in various meetings or talking to people. I have never been great at training in the mornings, as i tend to go straight to work mode when I wake up, so depending on the day or where I am, I will try to get some exercise in, during lunch or at the end of the work day. I am not very good at sitting around doing nothing, so often in my down time, I will potter away on different work projects or ideas, because that is what I enjoy doing. I would not say my day is really structured, and I have always had roles, that involved a lot of travel and different locations, so I am quite flexible and adaptable and how and when I work.

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

The value of treating people well is always critical, it is just a constant. Your team are humans first and employees second and ensuring they are ok, will always deliver better work outcomes. Secondly, the importance of being gracious and acknowledging people for contributions large and small. I have been very fortunate, with some of the support I have had from people over my journey, which has transformed my life.

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?

I have read lots of books and taken bits and pieces from all of them. From a sport perspective, i really enjoyed Legacy" by James Kerr, becaue it was a summary of many other books I had read, brought together in one place. I have enjoyed Daniel Coyle and Malcolm Gladwell's style of writing and their messages. The most influential couple of books, though are probably going back to Ric Charlesworth and Rod McQueen's books in the mid 90's. As an aspiring young coach, I read those books and felt a sense, that I thought and operated in a similar way to those two, which gave me a belief, that i could also be successful in that role. I can't speak for anyone else and maybe they were written to achieve that, but either way, they had a profound impact on my journey.

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

Pay it forward

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

The times that I am most proud of are where I have been able to have an influence on someone, who was going through a really tough time, maybe considering walking away from their dreams, or quitting work and I have supported them to hang in there just a little longer and that has resulted in them going on to do great things, that they may have missed out on otherwise. So essentially, those meaningful ones, comes to back helping others, which I think is the most important aspect of leadership.

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