Kick goals with leadership tips from Eagles Chairman

Good leaders must creative, brave, energetic, authentic and emotionally intelligent – that’s the advice from West Coast Eagles Chairman and Hawaiian CEO Russell Gibbs.

Gibbs, a member of a number boards in addition to WCE including Satterley Property Group, St Ives and Murdoch University Foundation says CEOs can also learn a lot from sitting on boards.

Gibbs was the featured guest speaker at the recent CCI Lighthouse Leadership Series on 23 March at the Hyatt Regency Perth.

“You can go off to Harvard and learn theory but when you sit on a board and you’re really accountable then you have to be engaged with what other companies are doing, so it’s good in that regard,” he says.

“It gives you wider exposure, it’s good for networking as you certainly meet high performing individuals on those boards as well.

“Networking is good for your own company as well in terms of brand. When it comes to not-for-profits there comes very much a responsibility that you should do that because you are by nature of the position a high performer or have networks that not-for-profits can leverage contacts, skills and knowledge for example.”

In terms of skill set, Gibbs – who grew up in Maddington – says he sits in the camp of generalists.

“You don’t have to be an accountant or a lawyer but have a broader skillset. A well rounded general manager should be able to know when something isn’t quite right at which point you should go out and seek external advice. You shouldn’t be using your board members for legal advice, finance advice. It’s restricting yourself to that person’s opinion.”

Doing deals with the Dockers

While Gibbs may be on the board of WA’s highest profile AFL team, he fully supports the Fremantle Dockers and says it’s imperative WA has two teams.

He says the rivalry between supporters extends to the board room, and at times, such as while negotiating a deal to play at the new Perth Stadium they must work together for the best outcome.

“I think it’s essential that both sides are healthy and competitive. It challenges you as an organisation to keep stronger on a number of levels because they are there. People will always compare Freo, but as an organisation that’s the benchmark of how we need to keep lifting our standards.”

“We are parochial, we’re West Australian. Dale Alcock (Dockers Chair) is a great mate of mine, he’s a partner in projects we do. Steve Rosich (Dockers CEO) is a good friend of mine, as he is of Trevor Nesbitt. We also understand that this is the West and there is the east over there.

“I know the board members and we have fun. At the end of the day we’re West Australian and it is still very Victorian dominated and there would be times where we have to work together to make sure we are getting what are deemed as good outcomes on the stadium deal. We’re working together on that to get the right deal. It’s not a case of Fremantle go off and do a deal and then West Coast, that wouldn’t be healthy.

“I absolutely think there are times we should work together and I think it is good having two teams in this state.”

It’s not the Dockers who pose the greatest threat to the West Coast Eagles in WA, says Chairman Russell Gibbs.

In fact, the Dockers are on the same page when it comes to competing for fans; and the clubs, in fact, complement one another.

Gibbs, who is also the CEO of property management company Hawaiian, spoke exclusively to The Guide in the lead-up to his appearance at the CCI Lighthouse Leadership Series on 23 March.

He says while most people may think the Dockers are their biggest competitor, they’re not.

“Fair answer but our competition is probably less of the Dockers and more of movies, retail, holidays, going to Bunnings and kid’s sport,” he says

“It’s anything where people spend discretionary dollar and discretionary time because we’re all time poor.

“We’re trying to get you to come along and engage for a minimum four hours a week watching us play football, either on the screen or on a seat.

“We have to present ourselves as a product. My job will be ensuring our value proposition is far beyond simply watching a game of football. Maybe I’m articulating it a little differently.”

Gibbs says one of the things he noticed when he came to the club was that they were doing some fantastic community work but weren’t telling anyone about it.

“That’s fine and to a degree there’s a balance about being boastful and doing things for the right reason and they were doing it very much for the right reason, however I don’t think there’s any harm in letting people be aware of it, not just because it’s good for your brand but it’s also a leadership position.”


Tips for a good leader

Gibbs’ five traits that make a good leader in no particular order are as follows:

  1. Creativity: That comes through being well travelled and keeping your mind open to ideas.
  2. Bravery: Sometimes you have to go against the trend of the norm and you have to be able to take your idea and execute it.
  3. Energy: People really follow energy. They want their leaders to be energetic and inspiring. You don’t set out to be inspiring – it’s the energy and creativity.
  4. Emotional Quotient: You have to be EQ. The emotional intelligence side of things is really important. So not just being about empathy, that’s part of it, but also mindfulness of yourself, who you are and what your limitations are and through that your understanding of other people as well.
  5. Authenticity: You’ve got to be authentic. You can’t manufacture. You’re either accepted and be real about it, but don’t try and pretend. And there’s nothing wrong with saying I don’t like to stand out the front and speak.

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