13 Australian CEOs Reveal Their Role Models From Their Youth

From super heroes to sporting stars, growing up children have role models that they look up to and learn from. It could be said these role models were their first mentors.

Business Insider has asked 13 successful Australian CEOs who their role models were when they were growing up and why.

It is an interesting insight into their background and in some cases reflects the leadership roles they hold now.

Mark Richards

Chris Ridd, Australian Managing Director of Xero

Going back to my early youth, I'd have to say my role model back in the early 80s was Mark Richards, the legendary Australian Surfer.

He had a unique and powerful surfing style and was really the first in a string of successful modern Australian surfers that went on to dominate world surfing, including 4 times World Champion from 1979 to 1982. He was also an innovator of the sport, introducing the twin-fin surfboard in 1977/78, which at the time was one of the most radical innovations in surfing and propelled him to the top of the rankings.

My parents bought me my first brand new surfboard in the summer of 1980/81 which was a twin-fin surfboard and was my prized possession. I just moved house over the weekend and actually found a photo of me with that board taken at Wye River that same summer.

The following year, the twin-fin design was surpassed by the Thruster, 3-fin surfboard which was introduced by Simon Anderson, a design which still dominates surfing today. The twin-fin era was short but epic.

The good news is that I still own one; my farewell present from Microsoft when I left the company after 15 years was an original 1979 reconditioned Strapper twin-fin, and is considered a collectors item. It is proudly on display in my home office... a reminder of a bygone era, and my youth.

Mark Bouris

Matt Bullock, CEO of eWAY

For me, it has always been about the challenge, innovation and moving faster than everyone else. I firmly believe in fail fast, fail often. I have learnt a lot from people like Donald Trump. He thinks big, moves quickly, and loves to win. He takes personal accountability, and expects accountability from his people. One of my favourite quotes from him is: 'Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.'

In the same vain I highly rate Mark Bouris who hosted the Australian version of The Apprentice. Like Mark, I fight hard every day, it is sheer determination, energy and passion that drives me, and above all else, I never, never, never give up.

Tom Farmer

Robbie Robertson, Director of Mash Up

When I was 17 I was working at a hotel during the summer holidays in the West Coast of Scotland. The hotel and pub was the very much the central hub for the local area and it was right beside the local marina.

One frequent visitor to the hotel was Tom Farmer, as the owner of Quick Fit in the UK, he would arrive by Helicopter on the lawn of the hotel and the entire hotel would come to a standstill as they watch his arrival. What struck me was that once he was off the helicopter and away from the show and bravado of the entrance that he was able to chat to everyone, take genuine interest in every conversation that he had regardless of their background or topic. We were chatting one day and I asked him for one piece of advice, which was 'always be nice to everyone on the way up the corporate ladder, as you never know when you might have to climb back down.' I have lived by this statement every day since.

Pat Rafter

Marcus Lim, founder and CEO of Oneflare

My role model from my youth is Pat Rafter. Like any elite athlete, Pat Rafter had an undying determination to fight to the end. Whenever Pat Rafter graced the court you knew he was going to leave nothing behind. I instil the same values to my management approach, to make no excuses and give everything you have got. I keep his quote 'anything is possible if you set your mind to it and don't accept anything less than No. 1' close to my heart.

Another attribute that I look up to Pat Rafter is his humility. Pat Rafter was great enough to win two Wimbeldon titles in a row but what made him greater was how graceful he was in defeat. Humility has taught me to listen to others, especially experts in their own fields. I also enjoyed his play style and how he took the battle straight to the opposition. His electric serve and volleys is particularly important in a start up environment where you need to quickly aim, fire and readjust for the next round.

Brett Blundy

Gen George, founder and CEO of OneShift.com.au

My role model would be Brett Blundy. His entrepreneurial journey started with a failed business - a record store in Melbourne. Despite the fact that he and his business partner had to close the store after a few years, Brett changed course and persisted to go onto much bigger and better things – BB Retail Capital.

I often say 'fail hard and fail fast' and Brett’s small beginnings are a testament to that. Brett has an incredible eye to see a gap in the market and run with it. He learned the basics of business from his father and their family business in country Victoria. This is something I can relate to and which has always been an important part of my entrepreneurial journey. I Look up to Brett because he does what he says he'll do and is constantly innovating.

Neil Armstrong

Greg Taylor, CEO of Clipp.co

My hero from youth was Neil Armstrong. He did something that everyone thought was impossible and did it in a charismatic and humble manner. Too often we are told things can't be done, but it's those who ask the question and learn from failing are the one's who succeed.

One of Neil's famous quotes 'Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand' to me, drives me to question the unknown and challenge the difficult. Startup's are not easy, they are challenging. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Grandfather, Lolek Ramler

Dean Ramler, CEO of Milan Direct

My late grandfather, Lolek Ramler was a fantastic role model growing up as a kid. My grandfather set up a furniture manufacturing factory in Cheltenham Melbourne in the 1950's, and taught me from a very young age how to make quality furniture, manage a large company, and most importantly how to treat people with respect. The factory was huge, and I have so many fond memories of working with my grandfather, and walking around the factory floor watching him run the show. My grandfather was very hands on, knew all aspects of furniture manufacturing better than anyone in his factory, and was a great teacher. Working seven days a week right into his 80's, you could not ask for a better role model and great example of what true hard work & determination can provide.

Han Solo

Andre Eikmeier, co-CEO and co-founder of Vinomofo

Okay, don't laugh, but Han Solo was my role model when I was younger. He was a bit of a scoundrel with a good heart when it really counted, and he really lived life - he was a risk-taker, he was ambitious, a creative thinker, and he knew how to have a bit of fun. He led by action. Han Solo got shit done.

My dad

John Winning, CEO of Winning Group

My dad has always been a strong role model for me – both inside and outside of business. As a keen sailor and a successful businessman, he really drummed home the importance of hard work, dedication and perseverance – an ethos that I try to apply to every part of my life.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Matthew Sweeney, CEO of Flirtey

My role model from as young as I can remember was Martin Luther King Jr. Leaders in all fields can learn from his tactical brilliance, his militant nonviolence and selfless integrity. He paved the road for future generations of his followers to reach a mountaintop that he never saw himself, and his life continues to inspire people to be the change you want to see in the world.

Michael Jordan

Matt Dyer, Founder of EatNow

When I was growing up I wanted to be 'like Mike'. I was obsessed with basketball and of course Michael Jordan was not only my idol but the idol of millions around the world. I used to watch his video's over and over, I recorded and watched his games and followed the Chicago Bulls.

Louis Vincent Gerstner Jr.

Simon Mackay, Managing Director of Web Marketing Experts

Louis is inspiring in particular for his book Who Says Elephants Cant Dance. What inspired me most was how he turned IBM around with his focus on Execution and an enormous sense of urgency dealing with a global business and an immensely diverse workforce.

From my perspective you rarely get it perfect on the first go. The speed with which you can iterate both allows you to refine everything you do and keeps you ahead of everyone else. In a network world with easy access to infrastructure, technology and ideas what sets you apart is your ability to execute and install a constant sense of urgency. This is a rare skill in business and one that will always give you the competitive edge. Mix this with heavily with the leadership of mentors like Jack Welsh and you have a potent mix.

I rely heavily on my people, my single minded purpose as a GM/ CEO is 'help them win', theirs is to 'help the customer win'. Leadership is about bringing out the best in people, inspiring them, supporting them when they need it and allowing them to have their head to take the lead when they need to. Leadership is transitional and should move fluidly across the group depending on who is in the best position to help the customer win at any given moment.

Her father

Maria Claridad, Director of DBM Consultants

When I started my career as a 21-year-old consultant, I was working very hard and bursting with enthusiasm about my burgeoning career.

One day my father asked how I was going, and with a great sense of self-importance, I declared I was very busy and working long hours. He barely looked up from his newspaper and said 'Well, you must not be very good at your job then.’

At the time, I was I thought it was harsh, but since then, I’ve realised he wanted me to develop the habit of working efficiently and effectively.

'Smart people make difficult jobs look easy', he would say. Working as a doctor who ran a large hospital, he lived by that mantra and never seemed stressed or rushed when he worked.

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