New generation of leaders must take a new responsibility

MBA graduate Susan Rallings will deliver the keynote address at the Griffith Business School Outstanding Alumnus Awards on Friday night.
Susan Rallings

Managers who rule by fear, who lack compassion for staff, or who are totally driven by the bottom line, could find themselves displaced by a new progressive management style.

Change is afoot, infiltrating our daily routines and work practices, and the autocrat may just have fallen foul of a new age.

A rule-by-fear philosophy has influenced, even dominated management techniques across the globe for a generation and more, moulding leaders with a hard edge and a taste for bottom lines.

It may have run its course, according to a leading Brisbane professional and Griffith MBA graduate.

“We have seen an evolution of leadership style,” Susan Rallings, Senior Vice President at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, says.

Leaders and generational change

Emotional intelligence, understanding and empathy are now crucial parts of the modern, progressive business leader’s armoury, she contends.

“It is very important leaders understand the generational changes of the workplace and understand the dynamic nature and innovative nature of employment these days.

“I think collaboration is the way that we’ll succeed and I don’t think you get the best out of people by ruling with fear. I don’t think you get the best out of them by telling them what to do.”

Susan, a recent finalist in the 2016 AFA Female Excellence in Advice Awards, has over 20 years of experience operating at all echelons of Australia’s finance and investment industry.

During that time she has observed, adapted to and instigated change. Now the accelerated pace of change in a 21st century digital economy calls for a willingness and versatility not seen before. She urges business owners, chief executives and industry leaders to take a new responsibility.

“The way we manage and work with individuals, our teams, and our organisations is going to continue to change and we need to continue to change and learn and do things very differently to what we might have done.

“We can’t stand still. We have to be continually evolving and for a lot of leaders I think that’s challenging.

“But responsible leaders will make the changes necessary and will always look at how they can do things better and will encourage their teams to innovate.”

Innovative solutions available

She argues this approach is likely to be an effective means of building productivity among the next generation of emerging professionals.

“They’re very smart, they’re very thoughtful. They don’t want to be told what to do. Yes, they need some boundaries and they need to know what’s required and what the expectations are, but I think they will always come up with more innovative solutions and we need to be able to embrace that.”

Susan Rallings will deliver the keynote address at the Griffith Business School Outstanding Alumnus Awards at the Sofitel Brisbane Central on Friday, November 4, when she will discuss the evolution of education and her own career path.

She was part of the first cohort to study an MBA at Griffith in 1991. She had previously trained as a nurse in a hospital-based environment but had a very different education experience doing an MBA, studying part-time in a university setting.

“I saw it as a great opportunity to expand my own horizons and think about what opportunities might lie ahead of me,” she says.

Exploring uncharted territory

Susan found herself exploring uncharted territory, her bias often challenged by classroom peers from a range of backgrounds with a mix of employment experiences. She learned negotiation skills, cross-cultural skills and benefited professionally from working with different types of teams.

She recalls, also, how she was encouraged to “dig a bit deeper” by lecturers whose depth of knowledge and interest in the students helped make the experience so worthwhile.

“I’ve always strived to learn new ways of doing things, to seek new pathways and to improve the leadership that we have within the industry and within the organisations that I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of.”

She has implemented this approach to her work in financial services through the years, endeavouring to address confusion and misconceptions about the industry in the wider community. Empowering the disadvantaged, isolated and those heavily dependent on others has been an abiding priority.

“The reason I got into the financial services industry was to help people understand the choices that they have.

“When I sit down with my clients it’s about how I help them identify or meet their goals and objectives.

“For a lot of them it’s not necessarily about the money it’s about the choices that that money allows them to have. It’s about helping them understand what their legacies are going to be.”