Real Life. Real Leadership.
Brad Rogers is the Managing Director and CEO of Bis, a leading resources logistics company. Prior to becoming CEO in 2015, Brad held other key leadership roles within the business including 5 years as CFO. Before joining Bis, Brad was General Manager Corporate Development at GRD Limited, responsible for group strategy, business incubation, corporate finance and investor relations. He also led GRD’s Global Renewables operating business in Australia and Asia. Earlier in his career Brad worked in management positions in the consulting practices of Mainsheet Corporate and Arthur Andersen.
Red Emu: Tell us your leadership story – how has your leadership evolved over the years and what has shaped your approach to leadership?
Brad Rogers: I grew up with a Dad who is best described as a workhorse – he was my first example of a leader. He had a number of retail and wholesale pharmacy businesses and would work 6 or 7 days a week. He was extremely customer focussed, which at times meant trade-offs in a personal sense, however, I have vivid memories of how his efforts were returned in spades as his passion cascaded through his businesses to his teams and in other work relationships. As a leader and father myself, I make the conscious effort to not physically work the hours that he did and I once did, but his work ethic and commitment to customers remains a leadership inspiration to me today.
Professionally, my work as a consultant and advisor ingrained the importance of competitive advantage – identifying and leveraging the strength of a team and the characteristics that are unique to a business and the individuals within it.
When I moved out of advisory work in my early 30s, I found myself managing people with much more experience than me and that was a humbling experience. I naturally made a few mistakes along the way. Learning from those mistakes helped to shape the approach I take today.
Red Emu: You have responsibility for a significant, complex organisation – how do you create clarity for your team and the broader organisation?
Brad Rogers: I try to create clarity in two ways.
Firstly, by being clear on our objectives and by making sure the establishment of those objectives has been inclusive. Key to this is involving different stakeholders in the process. In the beginning that might mean gathering stakeholder insight from community, shareholders, customers, employees and/or the management team. It helps people to attach and understand how they can contribute, in addition to ensuring validity of purpose.
Then communicate. Communicate in many ways, across every level. Goals need to be tangible and not overly complex and they need to be communicated consistently by all leaders in the organisation.
Red Emu: What is the biggest sacrifice or trade-off you have had to make in your leadership journey?
Brad Rogers: It would have to be the long periods of time spent living and working away from family to be where the business needs you. I have a very understanding wife, however, I am seeing the personal benefit in re-shaping how I work today. A simple example is that I would work every Sunday in the past. Now I have committed to not work on weekends unless it’s really necessary. Instead, my weekends are generally absorbed by managing “kid logistics”, not resource logistics! That time spent in the car with the kids driving them to whatever they have on, singing along to the radio and catching up on their week, is really valuable.
Red Emu: As you reflect on your career to date, what advice would have been helpful to you when you started out?
Brad Rogers: Don’t try to solve every problem yourself. As an advisor, you become self-reliant and can slip into the practice of “pre-packaging” neat outcomes to problems. That is not inclusive, might not arrive at the best answer and doesn’t fully engage the other capabilities in the room. Humility, respect for difference and patience will ensure the best answer and the highest level of understanding and support.
Red Emu: How do you continue to develop your leadership and the leadership capability within your business?
Brad Rogers: I develop my own leadership style by remaining curious and seeking opportunities to learn and share from others. Often this happens organically through discussions with leaders from other organisation. There is also the feedback that comes from teams and individuals within the business, formally or in the hallway. Bis is very democratic like that – people will tell you what they think! That’s a great and healthy thing about our culture and it’s good to be challenged to improve.
In terms of leading Bis, I place upmost importance on helping people to be aware of our strategy and goals, and also being honest about where individually we might be strong or need to develop. Whether we plug that gap with formal training or informally by working with another peer or leader to cultivate a skill, what we are trying to do is harness the diversity within the team by supporting individuals to grow and succeed. The business doesn’t move forward if we all have the same strengths and weaknesses. Individually and organisationally we can all grow if we are clear around purpose and we have complementary strengths and weaknesses.