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"When I look at succession planning the first thing I consider is the character of the individual."

Today, diversity and development of potential are seen as powerful attributes in most businesses, but according to Westpac Chairman Lindsay Maxsted an individual’s passion and thirst for knowledge are equally important in leveraging success.

With an enviable resume of corporate achievement, Maxsted has been identified as one of the most powerful and influential individuals in a boardroom. Currently the Chairman of Westpac Banking Corporation and Transurban Group, and Non-Executive Director of BHP Billiton, he is responsible for a combined market capital in excess of $200 billion.

But how did Maxsted get to where he is today? Reflecting on his achievements, he suggests that determination, excellent mentors and luck have played a big part in his success.

‘I was very fortunate early in my career to work for some exceptional individuals, people who were leaders in their field and taught me very good habits. The ability to identify who is excellent at their job and the determination to work with them is really important,’ he says.

With a life-long philosophy of saying yes rather than no, Maxsted explains that getting out of your comfort zone is vital and at the same time how you go about your business in a behavioural sense is just as important as your technical skills if you want to achieve growth.

‘Certainly now, as a chairman of two companies, when I look at succession planning the first thing I consider is the character of the individual. How resilient is this person under pressure, how is this demonstrated and how good they are as a leader in terms of delegation, sharing and listening.’

Maxsted commenced his career as a cadet at KPMG and retired from the practice in 2007 as its CEO, something he highlights as one of his favourite achievements and a position he deems most important in influencing change.

‘Even though I am currently the chairman of two great companies, Westpac and Transurban Group, and without diminishing those roles, I have a strong belief that the CEO is the one individual in a position to influence an organisation, to get results and to change perception,’ he says.  

With so many factors contributing towards success, Maxsted urges that the most important influencer is to work in a field of interest.

‘Work really hard at doing something you like. We spend so much of our life at work and in business, so to get up each day and actually do something you’re not passionate about is really hard.

‘Once you do something you are interested in, you will enjoy the challenges and create greater opportunities for yourself.’

 Lindsay Maxsted spoke to Deakin Commerce alumni as part of the Chapter’s first professional development events on 15 April at the Deakin City Centre. You can view our Twitter live coverage via #DBSAlumni.