Leadership As A Platform For Others To Succeed: Lessons From A Professional Disrupter

The Innovative Leaders Series (ILS) aims to inspire an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, providing students with access to the lessons and insights of successful leaders that have resulted in positive change through innovation and leadership. In late September 2017, the Global Leadership Program (GLP) hosted the fourth ILS event with keynote speaker Dominic Campbell, founder of FutureGov, which over the past eight years has helped more than one hundred international authorities across four continents, think differently about public services.

Dominic set the tone for his address declaring, “If I were to give this presentation a title it would be ‘My obsession with power, privilege, being aware of it and doing something about it.’” However, Dominic was quick to highlight that his talk wasn’t just about his journey, but the role Global Leadership Program students have to play. Dominic explained, “as university students, you are at the stage where you should be reflecting about your own inherent power and privilege, and thinking about how you hold these, and what you do with them.”

Dominic attributed his keen interest in the dynamics of power and privilege to his parents, who he described as “maverick journalists” and his inspiration to become a ‘disrupter’. As a young teenager in Birmingham, and a self-described “Marxist geographer”, Dominic made it his mission to disrupt the power base of the urban elite, and has since made a career out of “infiltrating the elite political class”.

Dominic started his journey in local government in the U.K, but “found the reality of bureaucracy stifling”.  Dominic started FutureGov with the intention of building a movement than could create change on a big scale. He explained that his business model of “telling truth to power” was a risk that ultimately paid off, arguing that it is crucial to keep integrity at the core of what you do. This practical and value-driven advice resonated with the student audience;

“Dominic’s advice surrounding entering the workforce as an odd duck, and his emphasis on failure as a platform for success, was truly an educational experience filled with honesty and acknowledgement of the learning curve which every young person has when starting out in the workforce.” – Perri Reynolds, GLP/Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws student

Dominic encouraged GLP students to think about what they as citizens can do with both government and the private sector to achieve the public outcomes they want to see.  He highlighted the work that FutureGov recently did with the NSW Government, using service design thinking and methodologies to conceptualise ‘ChildStory’, a user-focused software platform that empowers parents and caseworkers to have positive person-to-person interactions.

It is this principle of genuine community consultation that Dominic stressed was crucial for creating positive social change. Describing government as “exactly as bureaucratic as you think it is”, he argued that the traditional top-down approach of government must be challenged in order to improve the way these institutions operate and serve their communities. He argued that the disruption brought about by the digital age must be embraced by “re-designing, re-structuring and re-booting public services”. He explained that this digital disruption will continue to be integral in changing ingrained ways of thinking, and in the delivery of services that deliver public benefit on a large scale.

Dominic Campbell on the judging panel for the GLEP/GLP student ‘Social Entrepreneurship Intensive’ event on the same day as the ILS

Dominic’s argument for digital disruption had a powerful impact on the audience. MQ Law student Perri Reynolds revealed how Dominic’s story inspired her to think differently about her future career;

“Dominic’s description of coming up against old entrenched values and ideas in his early career, and his desire to disrupt and bring these policies into to the digital age really attracted me to the idea of innovative thinking being my platform for change. As a law student scrambling to compete within a very old and very competitive job market, the idea of disrupting and changing the values of an entrenched system in order to facilitate positive change was intriguing – and inspirational to say the least.”

In finishing up his keynote address, Dominic offered GLP students several valuable take-away lessons to ponder, some highlights of which were;

  • Leadership is about being a platform for others to succeed
  • Diversity FTW (for the win). Of thought, friends, colleagues, political opinion – try and be exposed to difficult conversations, turning our back on each other does not help us move forward. Empathy is hard, but we have to listed to other people and understand their stories
  • Be one person. Be that one person and be good at it – be authentic and don’t be afraid to be fallible
  • Be mission driven, Find your passion and don’t be afraid of your emotions
  • Everyone needs to understand digital. End of.

Written by Caroline Reid, GLP Coordinator 

Perri Reynolds, GLP Student &  GLP Casual Administration Assistant

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