Kris Gale, chairman, Michael Johnson Associates

My guest on the Let’s Talk Leadership podcast show this week, Kris Gale, has a strong professional interest in government leadership on industry innovation, and as I’m a bit of a political junkie as well as a leadership coach, the latest developments in the national capital, where yet another leadership spill gave us a new Prime Minister, the fourth in just two years, were grist for our podcasting mill.

And with the new Prime Minister arguably the most digitally savvy member of the national parliament, this was in fact an opportune time for a conversation about the kind of leadership needed in the digital age. And in the specifically Australian context, about what confidence we might have that the new Prime Minister’s stated views and intentions on innovation will be reflected in government policy and execution.

We also talked about sport and leadership, with interesting examples from US basketball and Australian Rugby League.

Kris Gale

Kris Gale is Chairman of Michael Johnson Associates or MJA, a company that specialises in helping Australian innovators make the most effective use of Federal Government industry assistance programs, especially via the Government’s R&D Tax Incentive. He is a founding member of the Australian Federal Government’s R&D Tax Incentive National Reference Group.

Kris has lengthy experience in this field of Federal Government support for industry innovation. He joined Michael Johnson Associates in 1987 as a Consultant, became a partner two years later and in 1998 became Managing Partner. In mid 2014 he took up the role of Chairman.

He’s a man of many parts, a music lover, owner of Risky Records and a DJ, a.k.a. The Godfather – his Twitter handle is @GodfatherDJ. He has diverse sporting interests. He’s a basketball player and coach, he has an amazing recall of cricket lore and is President of his local cricket club. He’s a died-in-the-wool supporter and Player Sponsor of the West Tigers Rugby League Club and co-hosts a very entertaining weekly segment on Rugby League on a local radio station, and never ceases to amaze me with his knowledge of US professional basketball and football. And as any of his friends will attest, he’s a fount of information about pop culture.

Managing Partner, Chairman – What Difference?

We talked about Kris’s experience of moving from the Managing Partner role to that of Chairman, with one of his two Partners in the company taking on the Managing Partner role. He shared the company’s strategic reasons for doing this, including:

  • demonstrating to the market that the company was more than “Kris and others”, that there was deep and wide expertise
  • showing staff that there was scope for them to envision a future for themselves and to aspire to fill more senior roles

The varied reactions to the move are fascinating and demonstrate the importance of explaining changes of this kind and getting feedback from stakeholders.

Changes in Government Leadership and Stated Focus on Innovation

We discussed the recent turnover in national leadership with the new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declaring that his government will be agile and innovative and the new Prime Minister’s declaration that “If we want to remain a prosperous, first-world economy [with] generous social welfare safety net, we must be more competitive, we must be more productive, above all we must be more innovative.”

Points covered included:

  • the rationale for Government support for private sector industry innovation, in Australia and some sixty other jurisdictions worldwide
  • the value for business in having a positive Government focus on supporting innovation, seeing it now as an investment, rather than, from a more narrowly conservative position, as a cost

Sport and Lessons in Leadership

Kris has “butted heads” with people teaching business and corporate transformation on what can be learned about leadership from sport. Nothing, some of them say.

As a sportsman, coach and keen observer of various sports, Kris thinks decidedly otherwise and shared stories and insights to illustrate, including the achievements of legendary NBL basketball coach Phil Jackson. On a more local level we talked about another legend, Wayne Bennett, currently coach of the Brisbane Broncos in the National Rugby League. With both stories, Kris shared his thoughts on organisational culture and collaborative leadership vs command-and-control.

What Keeps Australian Business Leaders Awake at Night?

Kris’s observations on this question, which I have asked every guest on the show so far, surprised me. It may surprise you. Either way, his response opened for me a whole new area of discussion about leadership, which we will now have to pursue at another time.

A Valuable Tip

Don’t miss Kris’s tip, near the end of this episode, on how to know whether you are doing a good job as a leader.

How to Find Out More about Michael Johnson Associates and Kris Gale

For more about Michael Johnson Associates and the services they provide to the innovation community, check out the website at michaeljohnsonassociates.com.au

Kris Gale’s LinkedIn profile is at linkedin.com/in/krisgale  Follow him on Twitter at@GodfatherDJ

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Des Walsh is an executive coach. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide deal effectively with the feeling of being left behind or overwhelmed, or both, about social media – especially LinkedIn - and how to engage safely and effectively with social media to help grow their business. Connect with Des on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get Des’s weekly Social Business Bites (select snippets of his "best of the week" online finds).