22 January, 2020

Drinks executives discuss effective leadership

Drinks executives discuss effective leadership

By Hannah Sparks & Alana House

The Women in drinks Mentoring Program 2017 held a panel discussion for mentees this week with four industry leaders: Jeff McWilliam, CEO, McWilliam’s Family Winemakers; Michelle Phipps, Vice President HR ANZPI/Asia Brown Forman; James Brindley, Managing Director, Lion; and Cathi Scarce, General Manager Operations, Coles Liquor.

The panel - facilitated by Bianca Havas from Serendis Consulting - shared their personal insights on the highs and lows of their career progression, the search for authentic leadership and their views on gender diversity in the industry.

When it came to their leadership style, all four said trusting in their teams and their abilities was one of their biggest strengths. 

Here's what they each had to say about their leadership style: 

Jeff McWilliam: "For me, effective leadership is getting the best out of people. You have to believe that people want to do well and then you have to remove the barriers to make that happen. It's important to have an awareness of people's strengths and then gently challenging them. I don't try to lead from the front or have a dictator approach. Sometimes the best leadership is to support and really believing in your people because no one can do anything on their own. You need the strength of your team and the key is to harness and unlock that."

Michelle Phipps: "You hire for culture, behaviours and proven results. If you do that, you know you have a great team whether you're there or not. Then there's trust - trusting your team and the people around you will deliver. And being accountable to make sure that people on my team achieve their goals. A leader's role is to create leaders and pass the baton on. So it's important to me that leaders create other leaders."

James Brindley: "You look at your leaders and take learnings from them. I think trust is one of the best things. A boss once gave me full trust, so I would never let him down because he took a gamble on me. Coaching is important too, when you learn from someone. Granting trust, holding them accountable and coaching them to get there. Humility beats arrogance every day. You want to have fun at work, so care and show genuine interest in your colleagues. That will help you drive people and deliver results."

Cathi Scarce: "I like to practice an available style of leadership, I want my team to feel like they can approach me at any time. Also authenticity is important, I come from the store floor and I don't forget that. So I've got a bit of a rough around the edge approach - if I think you're doing well I'll tell you and if not I'll tell you. I start from a place of trust - the trust bank starts full and then comes down if you give me a reason not to trust you. In terms of what has worked for mentoring women and men, stop trying to fix people. I don't try to fix people. I listen to their challenges and then help them come up with their own answers. And I build their confidence."

Pictured (main): Jeff McWilliam, Michelle Phipps, Cathi Scarce and the drinks association CEO Georgia Lennon.