​CEOs Talk Leadership: Kate Burleigh

by HCA14 Apr 2014
No one said leadership was easy. Getting to the big office requires a special mix of talent, ability and drive. Joshua Gliddon talks to Kate Burleigh about the attributes she thinks is required for a good leader

Kate BurleighKate Burleigh
Managing director
Intel Australia

1. Leadership is an art. It involves learning, hard work, risk, passion and imagination. Good leaders are constantly learning from experience and others around them. Whether through formal leadership training, self-styled learning or seeking out those you admire, leaders are constantly perfecting the art of leadership. For example, everyone can learn to draw well if shown a few key techniques, but the difference between a proficient sketch and real art is not just technique but also passion, imagination, risk-taking and drive. The same applies to great leadership: there is a lot you can learn, but you also need passion, imagination, a love of risk-taking, and boundless energy to be a great leader.

2. Great leaders look to promote others around them – nurturing and promoting talent is a key part of the leader’s role. Good leaders shouldn’t just aspire to have people following them but rather work towards having people run alongside them and ideally even run out in front. I’m at my best as a leader when I know I’ve supported or promoted the talent of enough people around me that any one of them could step up and run the show. The health and talent of the organisation I lead is as important as customer satisfaction or the bottom line.

3. Create an environment of trust in which people feel they can disagree with you without negative repercussions. At Intel we don’t entertain what we call “recreational whinging” but strive to create a culture in which staff are given permission to voice their opinions or question the direction of leadership. I actively encourage constructive conflict and counter opinions in meetings with staff, and positively reinforce the merit of people stepping forward with counter views. When the right path to take is not obvious, I may still have to ask staff to “disagree and commit”, but that’s better than never having the debate.

4. Self-awareness is the key to successful leadership, and be careful – you are always leading, even when you think you aren’t. Great leaders need to be self-aware, market aware, customer aware, staff aware. Long live social media and the ubiquitous computer devices that give me the ability to tap into market sentiment. Technology should be the friend of the leader because it allows us to pulse sentiment and react more quickly than at any other time in history. Flipping the lid on that, others can make a call on you or your company at the flick of a switch. So self-awareness is critical. You can’t underestimate the micro and macro signals you send every day as a leader. If you’re effective, it means others are watching you and looking for signals from you, so make sure you’re sending the signals you intend.

5. Listen twice as much as you talk, and don’t always feel compelled to come up with an answer. The key is to give others the floor and not take on the role of decision-maker at all times. People seek out leaders often because they do not want the burden of decision-making. But often the best decision comes from the person with the most expertise, and in many cases the leader is not the most expert. Talk half as much as you listen and you will learn more and encourage an environment in which the person doing the talking will come up with the answer themselves. Human nature shows most people are happy to defer to leaders, so if you don’t create an environment in which people feel their commentary is valued, they will just clam up, and that’s a disaster for any leader.