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7 Questions on Leadership with Richard Webbe

Name: Richard Webbe

Title: Director Sales - Automotive & Health industries

Organisation: Optus

Determined. Consultative. Gregarious. Fearless. These are just a few of the words that best describe Richard as a strategic executive with IT&T industry specialisation. His background includes 20+ years of versatile experience across business development, sales management, product strategy and strategic leadership. Known for thoughtfully challenging the status quo and working collaboratively to shape a business vision and strategy to increase revenue and profitability whilst delivering strong customer value.

During his career he has been exposed to a wide range of industries from retail, finance and telco to transport, utilities and mining. He has also honed broad knowledge spanning many disciplines and technologies including cloud computing and enterprise software. As an entrepreneur at heart Richard has been heavily involved in business development efforts for disruptive technology start-ups, small / medium companies and large multinationals.

Having lived and worked in Australia, the US, Europe and Asia, Richard honed a keen focus on building productive, balanced and engaging work environments, infusing a little humour into the culture whilst maintaining a standard of excellence to inspire peak team performance.

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?

Being watched, judged and summarised. As leaders we must demonstrate the values we want in our team and in our life. What I wasn’t prepared for is the negative judgement no matter what you do. People close to you and people who don’t even know you. There will always be judgement and you cannot control the individuals that will judge you - with their values and fears - not yours.

Mostly this will be positive 99% of the time. There will be those that judge you from their critical perspective be it fear or insecurity they will promote a negative narrative of you.

The key hear is don’t react , rise above it and keep moving forward. It’s about them not you.

Your actions and treatment of others will rise to the surface and become your identity.

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

I was very lucky as my natural passion to do things right , for customer, for company or team , for family or community has always driven me.

While life is not always a meritocracy- sometimes the team noticed and put me in charge. I remember at a very young age doing an executive leadership conference being voted leader of an experienced elite group. I didn’t ask or try but mainly focused on the teams outcome. I made the tasks fun and was careful to not push my way too much, let the team decide.

As I got older , often political persuasion by others shut me down in various competitive situations. It was then I decided to start my own business and be my own leader. My entrepreneur instincts I learnt from my father kicked in and within a few short years I had a global practice of 180 staff, self funded, profitable and lots of fun. People sought me out as an advisor and speaker. It all worked because I spoke and acted from the heart but used my head.

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

Get up early. I have never been diagnosed but my high passion and energy probably puts me in the ADHD part of neurodiversity.

I consider this as a super-power.

Unfortunately because of this detail can sometimes be lost and procrastination can hold me back. So I use lists and collaboration to keep me on track.

I have 3 key objectives I must achieve everyday.

I find my passion helps me focus, enjoy and execute on a positive and productive day. Lists help me stay on track.

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

Keep your cool at all times. Drive and passion can be frustrating when you are goal and objective focused. Getting demonstrably frustrated has been my biggest failing. It removes confidence in yourself and from others. You can’t lead like that and for most of us it’s a life long battle to balance passion with frustration. But it can be done.

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?

Dale Carnegie - how to win friends and influence people. It demonstrates story telling to win people over to your point of view using values and clear methods. It’s not manipulation but respectful communication.

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

Be kind. Be focused. Be balanced. Don’t panic. Forget self and focus on the outcomes for your family, your team , your community. If you do that, you will be alright, no matter what happens.

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

I had never given a public speech and I was thrust into a situation of doing it for over 1000 people. Sink or swim and some people’s worst nightmare. I considered advice from so many people as voices in my head. They all pointed to one thing - it’s not about you! It’s about your message and objectives! It’s about your team, which includes that audience. So I sat quietly in the taxi from the airport to the venue and turned my whole perspective around . If I was in the audience what would I want from someone in my position? Value? Demeanour? Message? How would I want to feel after the talk as an audience or team member. I would want to feel , inclusion, empathy, a connection with the speaker , something I could identify with. It was then that vulnerability came up in my mind. Being vulnerable openly, as a leader is powerful but it’s also counterintuitive.

Leaders never are and should never present themselves as perfect. It’s the imperfections that people identify with. So I gave the talk , spoke about mistakes I had made. Got my audience to understand we were the same and then empathised with the broader challenges we shared. I did this through story telling but avoided referring to myself too much. I shared stories as the observer not the central point of the story. It worked - the talk went well. I am so thankful for being put in such a difficult position and having to survive under such pressure. Someone had faith in me. It now gives me a buzz when I take a leap of faith with my children, friends and coworkers , encourage them to do something a bit scary or have never done before. It’s how we grow and it’s how we grow our teams around us.

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