The Consequence of Ignoring a Critical Leadership Skill

The consequence of ignoring a critical leadership skill

We all face our ceiling of capability and you better hope it is not in a major interview on national television, such as Four Corners.

For Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci, it was.

Maybe his resignation the other day was not inspired by the interview alone, but it sure as hell looks like it, as it did for the Optus CEO after the network meltdown and there are many other appalling examples over the last months – think Luke Sayer, PWC and Vanessa Hudson, Qantas.

Ending a 13 years as CEO and 13 years of what could be seen as a successful career can not be good for Woolworths, was hideous for the audience to watch and must be devastating as a legacy for Mr Banducci.

The Consequence of Ignoring a Critical Leadership Skill - a man in a suit with eye glasses

Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci

So what went wrong?

Well, the problems can be grouped into three areas:

1. The Approach

Yes, the journalist may take a confrontational approach, but blow me over if that is a surprise to anyone. In response, to take a combative and bristling approach is akin to diving into a cauldron of burning gases and hoping to come out alive.

Watch Hillary Clinton laugh in crisis. Watch Richard Branson swagger and joke. Even, dare I say it, watch Daniel Andrews enjoy his own sarcasm. There needs to be a lightness of approach, a sense of humour, a feeling of ‘perhaps you need me to help you understand’.

The ancient Romans and Greeks make it clear that gravitas involved as much levity as seriousness, and this is a lesson we have let slip to our demise.

2. The Frameworks

As Aristotle obsessed, there are arrangements for every single communication. Straight out confrontational answers, using demeaning phrases such as “as I told you already” or misdirecting to irrelevance such as “he is retired” (to undermine the comment of an expert) is poor taste.

3. Delivery

Let’s not underestimate delivery. As Demosthenes famously postulated in 350 B.C., the key to communication is delivery, delivery and delivery. Storming out of an interview when you don’t get what you want is childish and then creeping back in is plain ugly. Even the way Mr Banducci stood up, throwing his body forward, was an aggressive move, unbecoming for any CEO.

Sitting at an angle with a tightly sealed mouth and glaring eyes, is a recipe for disaster and barking responses will bring on a fight. It is quite simply poor choice, totally ineffective and might I say, old-fashioned.

So what are the answers? Some simple guides would be:

1. Decide on an approach and adopt techniques such as mantras to guide the mental state.

2. Have a framework for questions, for emotional responses, for providing feedback and for offering perspectives, instead of answering shotgun off the top of your head.

3. Know your body under stress and make conscious responses physically and vocally as opposed to stress inspired reactions.

It’s not rocket science, but we have ignored these skills for so long, we are behind the eight ball and maybe we are going to have to start from the beginning.

This article was recently published in the Financial Review.

Let me know your thoughts.

Love Dr Louise Mahler

p.s. Super excited to announce that I’m hosting a webinar for my Gravitas Book Launch, and I’d love for you to join in on the fun! Check out the details below.


Date: Wednesday, 6th March 2024

Time: 9:30 am – 10:30 am AEDT

Location: Live Online

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About Me

Dr Louise Mahler is a body language expert. With a focus on study of the mind-body relationship and business applications; providing practical inspiring improvement to global leaders.

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