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Stephen Scheeler Presentation

Many of today’s business leaders are ill-equipped for the demands of leadership in the 21st-century, where “digital” and “disruptive” experience & skills mean the difference between success and failure in leading businesses of all sizes and sectors…and are the #1 determinant of whether you get that next job, or someone else beats you to it.

Stephen Scheeler has a record of transformative business leadership which few can emulate. From his tenure as one of Facebook’s most senior global executives, to executive roles at iconic Australian giants Lion and Westfield, to his current roles as founder of The Digital CEO, CEO of revolutionary A.I. startup Omniscient Neurotechnology and Senior Advisor to McKinsey & Company – Stephen has thrived at the frontier of technology, disruption and change for 25 years.

In his energizing masterclass – The Eight Elements of Disruptive Leadership – Stephen shares his personal insights into the secrets of great leadership in the 21st century. From disruptive Silicon Valley giant Facebook to incumbent corporate titans, Stephen draws on his unparalleled leadership experience to offer actionable advice for leaders of businesses large and small on how to transform their personal leadership style, rapidly gain impressive digital experience and insight, and remake themselves into versatile, high-impact, disruptive leaders.

The eight elements are: vision, humility, curiosity, adaptability, transparency, data dexterity, customer obsession and speed. 

We caught up with Stephen recently…

1.  Stephen, in 2018, you did a Ted Talk called “The Oldest Guy at Facebook”. Tell us about what that was all about.

After I left Facebook, the Tedx Sydney folks approached me about doing a talk. At first, I was daunted – there have been so many great Ted talks over the years. But eventually I found a story about my time at Facebook that I felt offered universal insight for everyone struggling to keep up with today’s disruptions – a story about how, when I joined Facebook, I – at 46 – was exactly double the age of the average Facebook employee. In some ways, it was a parable about rediscovering and reinventing what made me a good leader in the past, and what I needed to do to find a new way of leading my team in a very different era of technology and expectations.

2.  What were some of the biggest lessons that you learned from that experience at Facebook?

I learned a lot about things like humility, curiosity, adaptability…in fact, all the elements we cover in the masterclass. And, frankly, a lot of it came down to learning how to be a better listener and truly think deeply about the challenges before me. Ironically, even though I learned to move faster, I also learned how to think slower about those things which really demand slow thinking.

3.  As a leader, what was the worst or most challenging aspect of working at Facebook?

In retrospect, the worst thing was the pace of change, the ambiguity and the constant need to pivot and reinvent. It was both draining and invigorating at the same time. In the 18 years since Facebook was founded, the company has really gone through nine big disruptions, so it was not a place where you could call anything “business as usual”. Like a constant roller coaster, that was one of the most thrilling parts about Facebook; but, after I left, I realised how exhausting it had been as well.

4.  Do you have any unique insight into Mark Zuckerberg?

This is only my opinion, but from my observation of working with Mark I think there are both good things and not-so-good things about him and his current place in the world. On the plus side, I think he genuinely wants to change the world for the better and he is very good at taking advice from others. On the downside, I think he has too much power and lacks true accountability as Facebook’s CEO, and that this has somewhat corrupted his decision-making and perspective on the world. I have become something of a public critic of Facebook and Mark, but it’s not because I think Mark has ill intentions – he simply has too much power over something which, as we have seen, has some major negative side effects.

5.  Tell us about your leadership masterclass – what can people expect?

First of all, I am not a professional leadership coach or management guru – I’m a humble businessman and entrepreneur. So, you won’t be hearing about leadership theory or sophisticated frameworks. What you will hear is insight into my own leadership challenges and how I have tried to overcome them to maintain some level of success in an era of rapid change. And, of course, I try to keep it practical, actionable and fun. I focus on real examples of what I have actually done to change myself as a leader, and I use the lens of the elements which Facebook focused on in building their leaders: vision, humility, curiosity, adaptability, transparency, data dexterity, customer obsession and speed. 

6.  Currently, what’s Stephen Scheeler’s biggest leadership challenge?

Well, currently I am CEO of an A.I. startup called Omniscient, which uses machine learning to build maps of the human brain. We have a big, long-term mission to improve the lives and brains of everyone on earth…so, my biggest challenge right now is keeping the entire business (118 people across 10 countries aligned to that mission in their everyday work. Mission is something which you can never sleep on, so we use it as a touchstone for everything we do. Sometimes, I feel like I talk about our mission too much…but what I learned at Facebook is that you actually can never talk about it enough…but, in truth, that can be exhausting! But I’m really the only one who can deliver that message time after time.

Why should our members attend your masterclass? What will they walk away with?

7.  I think there are six things folks will walk away with:

  1. Increase your capacity to articulate a compelling vision for yourself and your team
  2. Deepen your command of humility and curiosity as pillars of your leadership formula
  3. Build new capabilities in data dexterity and customer obsession
  4. Learn how adaptability can help you reimagine yourself as a leader, and take your career in exciting new directions
  5. Master new techniques for harnessing transparency and speed as powerful weapons in your leadership arsenal
  6. Build a simple but powerful plan for remaking yourself as a disruptive, digitally savvy leader for the 21st century

8.  Who’s the leader you most admire?

I am a huge student of folks like Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Lincoln. They were all heavily flawed people who truly dedicated their lives and talents to saving their country. And they all dealt skillfully with formidable adversaries both at home and abroad. For any leader, crisis and confrontation are often the toughest tests of their skills. All three of these men met their moments of existential crisis amazingly well. I hope I will do the same if ever I am faced with the same huge challenges!

Leadership Retreat

ACC Australia and HFW Consulting are proud to present Stephen Scheeler at this year’s General Counsel Executive Leadership Retreat “Escape and Extend”, at Peppers Noosa Resort & Villas, on 2-4 September, 2022.


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