leadership

Former Microsoft Australia managing director Pip Marlow shares five key things future leaders will have

Women's Agenda /

Courage, creativity and clarity are some the key skills Pip Marlow believes successful leaders of the future will have.

They will also have a strong purpose, along with a growth mindset — not just regarding the numbers, but also on expanding their knowledge.

Now heading up strategic innovation at Suncorp, Marlow recently left the managing director role at Microsoft Australia, after spending 21 years with the tech giant.

A judge on the Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards, she answers a Q&A regarding emerging leaders below — including what great leadership will look like in the future.

She also shares some of her top business reads.

Who and what do you lead today?

I lead a team of entrepreneurs and innovators at Suncorp known as Strategic Innovation. Our team is committed to driving new growth beyond the core functions with an emphasis on third-party products. 

We’re looking at new ways to meet customer needs, whether it’s through partnerships, experimentation or looking outside the financial services sector for best practice

Has there been a career turning point that’s put you on this leadership path?

I spent the past 21 years at Microsoft, which gave me a love of innovation and what it can do to change the world. 

As managing director of Microsoft Australia, I learned how to balance delivering today and investing in the future. It’s a delicate balance that’s not easy to get right — you need to be clear on why you want to innovate, to set high ambitions and build cultures and organisations that empower people to think differently and try new things

How have you worked with mentors or sponsors during your leadership career?

I have been blessed with great mentors including Tracey Fellows, REA Group chief executive, and Steve Vamos, former chief executive of Microsoft to name a few. My mentors have changed throughout my career, based on the development areas I was focussing on. 

I’ve also embraced reverse mentoring where university graduates have mentored me on connecting and communicating with teams 

What key skills and attributes do you believe successful leaders of the future will have?

• Purposeful — have a very real vision for your team;

• A growth mindset — don’t only focus on results, but also the process of learning;

• Courage — take risks and set high goals. Successful innovation is never guaranteed so you need to be resilient;

• Creativity and collaboration — new problems need new solutions so creation and collaboration are essential. No individual can produce a solution, everyone plays a part; and

• Clarity — given the speed and volume we deal with, great leaders provide real clarity about what is important, why we do what we do, and what we should stop doing. 

What do you look for when attempting to spot a ‘potential’ leader?

For me it is about self-awareness. I love to see a person who is deeply aware of themselves. It’s not as easy as understanding your weakness; good leaders invest time in understanding how they need to grow and be better. 

I also love it when I see a leader who is willing to develop people to the point that they are eventually surpassed.

What needs to change to get more female leaders in your sector?

Like many industries, creating an environment where everyone can thrive — not despite of who they are but because of who they are — is important.

The more we embrace diversity at work, the more people from different groups will be able to be their authentic selves. Companies need to realise that or they’ll lose out significantly. I also believe we need to fight against the stereotypes by challenging bias where we see it.

What tools do you use to stay up-to-date as a leader?

I love to read — articles on twitter, publications, books (I love the Blinkist App) — and putting myself in the way of innovation by attending seminars and conferences.

Any book you’d recommend that has aided your leadership career?

There are a couple that have impacted me:

• Good to Great by Jim Collins. It taught me about sustainable business and ensuring I built a business that thrived when I left it.

• Conscious Business by Fred Kaufman. This taught me about how to hold my values and still have courageous conversations; to move from a place of assumption to curiosity and how to be self-responsible in challenging times.

• Mindset by Carol Dweck. This book is based on the belief that anyone can grow and improve and how we as leaders prime a system to help have that happen.

Pip Marlow will be speaking on a panel at the Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards luncheon on October 6 in Sydney. 

This is an edited version of an article that was first published by Women’s Agenda.

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