Leading Through Complexity, Creating a Community

–Featuring Tony Douglas

Episode Summary

Tony Douglas has made a remarkable career out of dealing with complexity and creating inspired communities of people who are able to work together and deal with that complexity as a unit. From engineers to pilots, customer service people to administrators, all from around the globe, Tony’s brought the best out of diverse teams for some of the world’s most respected organizations. This week, we get his amazing perspective.

Episode Notes

Leading Through Complexity, Creating a Community (ft. Tony Douglas). Tony Douglas on managing complexity in high-stakes environments


“It’s about people. There are no organizations without people. Simple as that.”

-Tony Douglas


Tony Douglas is CEO of Etihad Aviation Group with over 30 years of international leadership experience in aerospace, transportation, infrastructure, and government sectors. He joined Etihad in 2018, after being the CEO of the UK’s Ministry of Defense Procurement Arm, supplying all the services and equipment for the British Armed Forces valued at over $20 billion pounds a year. Tony has previously held senior leadership positions in the UAE, such as CEO of Abu Dhabi Ports, and in UK, his roles included the Managing Director of the Heathrow Terminal Five Construction Project, CEO of Heathrow Airport, and COO and Group Chief Executive Designate of Laing O’Rourke, a massive global construction company.


[10:53] – We All Have a Part to Play

Junior, senior, everybody in-between

While managing production lines of 4,000 or more people, all heavily unionized, Tony quickly learned that engaging with their community would send productivity through the roof— and failing to engage would be catastrophic. “We’ve all got a part to play,” he says. “Some parts are bigger than others, but unless they all play together, you’ll never get the potential that is clearly there.”

[26:06] – Embracing Diversity from the Ground Up

The difference between success and failure

In his role at Etihad, Tony works with people of 112 different nationalities and an average age of just over 30. He’s learned that diversity must become something that you embrace without a second thought, or you and your teams will fail. Tony even speaks to finding joy in the complexity of navigating diversity, knowing that it ultimately leads to more diverse perspectives and greater success.

[37:47] – Clarity of Purpose in an Organization

Translate what’s required and deliver it

Tony speaks to the importance of clarity and purpose at an organization from the top down. When that clarity is present, everyone within the organization can interpret it and deliver results built around an organization’s purpose.

[48:36] – The Power of Ramesh

Being brand ambassadors— and recognizing great ambassadors for your brand

Tony shares a story of an Australian family who stops at the same hotel in Abu Dhabi every time they have a stopover there en route to the UK. Why? Their children have connected so much with an excellent hotel employee named Mr. Ramesh. But the hotel managers not only had no idea what an impact Mr. Ramesh has had for their brand, but didn’t even know who he was.

Imagine if management had realized the power that Ramesh was having for their brand and capitalized on it, instead of being unaware of his impact?


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Chris Roebuck
Chris Roebuck
Chris Roebuck is a speaker, advisor and executive coach who has a unique approach that helps leaders, teams, and organisations reach their full potential and be successful in just three steps. This is proven to add investor value, deliver better customer service, build the brand externally, develop innovation and entrepreneurial thinking, optimise risk and boost the bottom line by 10% + at no cost. Chris unique experience as a leader in the military, business, government and as a Hon Visiting Professor of Transformational Leadership has enabled him to develop this innovative, entrepreneurial and highly effective new approach for leaders and organisations to achieve success: I CARE Leadership. It’s simply about you being the leader people always give their best for empowered by authentic and inspirational servant leadership. Chris shows how building on leaders current knowledge via simple, practical day to day actions can immediately deliver real improvements at all levels; individual, team, and organisation. One organisation who implemented it increased the number of staff happy to recommend it as “a great place to work” to friends or family in 2 years from 40% to 82%, an exceptional change, and increased revenue by 40%. When Global Head of Leadership at UBS, 70,000 staff & 100 countries, his team helped the bank transform organisational performance to increase profitability by 235%, market capitalisation by 50% and win awards. This is now a Harvard Case Study. Chris experience spans many sectors and geographies; from having held senior roles in UBS, HSBC, KPMG & London Underground to advising legal firms and construction, from the UK National Health Service of 1.4m staff and UK Government to the Red Cross in Myanmar, from Investment banks in London to Middle East Telecoms, from the Chinese Space Programme to retail in USA and many more. Chris has been quoted as a business leadership expert globally in the Harvard Business Review China, FT, Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, New York Times, Business Week, Time Magazine, Washington Post, Times of India, Straits & Gulf Times and many other titles. He has been interviewed on TV over 350 on leadership and business issues on BBC, CNN, Bloomberg, and other channels and his books have been translated into 11 languages. Chris has been recognised as one of the Most Influential HR Thinkers regularly since 2011 by the HR profession.

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