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Welcome the new ‘disruption-era’ leader

by Matt Smith | 25 Jul 2017

A new style of leader is emerging, one that’s able to combine courage in decision making with self-reflection and pragmatism. 1 Welcome the new ‘disruption-era’ leader

In professional services in particular, where professions spanning financial advice, accounting and law are literally teetering on the cusp of great technological change and challenges from new entrants, leaders require strong multi-disciplinary understanding to make decisions with speed and clarity.

It’s against this backdrop that Lucienne Cassidy, a senior associate at Ashurst, undertook the immersive Business Essentials for Executives program at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania in the United States this year.

The program was funded by FINSIA’s Hugh DT Williamson Scholarship, which awards $16,500 to a FINSIA member aged 35 and under to complete a leadership, education or professional development program of their choice.

Reflecting on the program after returning to Sydney in June, Cassidy highlights the emphasis the Wharton School leadership sessions place on self-reflection and feedback as tools leaders of tomorrow can use to ensure they remain dynamic and continue to learn and adapt their approach to issues as they arise.

Cassidy also points to the multi-disciplinary approach to the course content, which she says gives participants a foundation in areas outside of their core expertise while remaining relevant to managerial roles, for example financial accounting, operational strategy and marketing.

Into disruption

In particular, Cassidy recalls the focus on disruption during the operational strategy sessions and learning about strategies for organisations to act early to minimise risks and maximise opportunities presented by that disruption.1 Lucienne 
“The idea of a 'burning platform' surrounded by shark-infested water was introduced. It symbolises a choice – either you stay on the platform where failure is 100 per cent likely, or you jump off into shark infested waters - the water still carries significant risks, but there is a chance of survival if you can think creatively and act quickly,” Cassidy tells InFinance.

“Like many service-based industries, professional services will no doubt see significant change and disruption in the coming decade – the earlier that organisations confront the risks of disruption the more chance they will of not just surviving it but using it to ultimately succeed,” she says.

Thirty professionals from across the world representing a range of industries and roles participated in the six day intensive program covering all aspects of management, including leadership, mentoring, financial accounting, marketing, operational management and talent management.

“The teaching was exceptional and despite the compact time for such a breadth of subjects the faculty was able to really delve into the issues in a meaningful way,” Cassidy recalls.

Cassidy joins a select group of up and coming leaders who have won the Hugh DT Williamson Scholarship. Applications for the 2018 scholarship for eligible FINSIA members will open soon.

Last year’s winner, Jenny Taing, previously a senior lawyer at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, who recently joined Vanguard Investments Australia as a senior lawyer, talked about being a charismatic leader after completing the High Potential Leadership Program at Harvard.

In addition to the multi-disciplinary and operational strategy learnings she took away from her experience, Cassidy says the experience provided unparalleled exposure to the diverse experiences of professionals, not only across industries, but across the globe, as far reaching as the Bahamas, Nigeria, and Brazil.

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