MBA students meet leader with the toughest job in Australia

11 Apr 2011
MBA students with Andrew Metcalfe

Secretary of the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), and Alumnus of the University of Queensland (UQ), Andrew Metcalfe, was recently the guest speaker at a recent Leadership Enhancement Program for Master of Business Administration (MBA) students and alumni at UQ Business School.

The sheer logistics of Mr Metcalfe’s task alone are formidable; let alone the management of 8000 staff across the world, 28 million people crossing Australia’s borders each year, the four million visas issued, the 100 000 new citizens welcomed, the arrival of 14 000 new refugees and 5000 media requests.

Amidst the hothouse of immigration policy, Mr Metcalfe spoke of a program of reform and renewal for his department, turning to the staff for a new motto, rather than a mission statement, which soon became “people our business”.

He says leadership is about achieving results through getting the best out of people, and setting the context and environment so the team understands it is contributing to the organisation’s efforts towards nation-building.

DIAC’s values are encapsulated in a system which features high performance and evidenced-based integrity, and emphasises humanity. This leads to fair and reasonable dealings with clients, an open and accountable organisation, and well developed and supported staff.

Mr Metcalfe prefers the term ‘engaging’ with people rather than ‘communicating’, since the latter has a top down connotation.

“Values are crucial,” Mr Metcalfe told the MBA student audience. “Nothing devalues values more than not adhering to them.”

The secretary said in his field, leadership must be practised throughout the organisation and the right decisions must be right the first time.

“These decisions will literally affect a person’s life, especially because people migrate to succeed and not to fail,” Mr Metcalfe said.