Behind the scenes of the Young Business Leaders list

Catherine Fox compiled this year's list and led the panel discussion | Photo: Graham Jepson

How the panel rated this year’s talent.

The INTHEBLACK 2014 list of Young Business Leaders presents the profiles of 20 high achievers in the world of business. But how do the experts really rate this young talent?

I recently had the opportunity to join with our expert panel as they came together to review the selection for the 2014 list.

Brought together over lunch and in some cases meeting for the first time, each member of the panel had been selected to bring their own leadership experience and insights to the discussion.

The panel was drawn from sectors including retail, entertainment, IT, charity and media. They included both leaders in large organisations – Warner Bros, CPA Australia, Ericsson – and entrepreneurs. The discussion was facilitated by Catherine Fox, who had compiled the list and led a free-flowing conversation focusing on the themes that emerged from the individual stories.

Two of our panel had previously graced the list themselves: Jen Dalitz CPA, gender balance consultant and founder of Sphinxx, and Aaron Musca CPA, CFO of IKEA Australia both made the list in 2012.

This didn't stop them or the rest of the panel referring to the “younger” group as seemingly an entirely different species – operating without borders, at home with the possibilities of technology, and without an expectation of long-term employment at one organisation.

So what really impressed the judges?

The common thread of the young business leaders evaluated is clearly success – all are certainly high achievers in their various fields and this did not escape notice by any means.

But the panel looked deeper and some themes emerged. It was these qualities that seemed to evoke admiration and a sense of connection that lifted the profiles beyond the page:


Going to work – whether for themselves or as part of a larger organisation –  is certainly not a chore for the 20 chosen. I got the same impression from the judges, who see an event like this as an extension of their leadership roles within their own organisations.


No question that our 20 demonstrate a clear set of guiding principles. In many cases, that includes giving back – within their major employment roles working for not-for-profit organisations or outside of their day jobs.

All 20 seem future oriented and take an international perspective, thinking ahead as they forge ahead, with a strong emphasis on social responsibility. People “doing the right things and not because it looks good”.

Commercial acumen

While risk-taking is a part of life and a part of business, the gambles here are very calculated. There’s a strong view of building businesses that are sustainable, using their education and applying sound business practices to new ideas.

Self belief

Whether the panel fully identified with this I'm not sure, but the confidence of these young leaders was evident: Confidence to start new things, to pursue good ideas, to work without geographic constraints. This is often apparent in their natural belief in collaboration and supporting other entrepreneurs. Yet many are treading their own path, not competing directly but finding a way to add value and build success in their own ways.

For me, I took away some great leadership insights from those successful enough themselves to be invited as our panelists.

And while they spoke of this younger generation as a new breed and in some ways a world apart, there were plenty of similar attributes on show by the judges.

So the discussion ended and the photo shoot completed, the panel went back to their days, hopefully just a little inspired by the discussion and the young business leaders of 2014.

Meet the Panel

The 2014 panel met in Sydney to assess the talent | Photo: Graham Jepson

The 2014 panel met in Sydney to assess the talent | Photo: Graham Jepson

From left to right: David Spong FCPA, CFO Ericsson Australia, NZ and Fiji; Aaron Musca CPA, CFO IKEA Australia; Jen Dalitz CPA, gender balance consultant and founder, Sphinxx; Alex Malley FCPA, former chief executive, CPA Australia; Penny Egan FCPA, former president and chairman, CPA Australia; and Preston Kevin Lewis, managing director Warner Bros Consumer Products, Australia, NZ and India.

Lisa Carroll is Executive General Manager, Communications, Content and Publishing at CPA Australia. She has been involved in the annual Young Business Leaders list since its inception.

Read next: INTHEBLACK's 2014 Young Business Leaders list

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