Preferring to be known for who he is, rather than what he does (or has done), Chris Luxton, National Party candidate for the Botany seat in the imminent election addressed an attentive gathering of about 60 local Rotary Club members, partners and friends at this week’s meeting.
Chris’s lengthy CV was used by Del Johnson to introduce a man who has made a huge impact already in the international and New Zealand business world. A snapshot of his education (much in the Howick area) and university achievements provided background to his extremely valuable experiences as a leading executive in the global multi-national company Unilever where he honed his strategic thinking and actions to enhance the company’s position in world markets.  With these well prepared tools in his pouch he accepted the position of CEO of Air New Zealand, an 80 year old company, with which he stayed for seven years.
Most Kiwis would be aware of the incredible record of this airline under his leadership with the upgrading of systems, opening new markets, forming strategic alliances with other airlines, Air Points, modern aircraft and recruitment of top executives and workers to the point where it was elected the top Corporate Reputation and Trust Company in NZ (2015 – 19) AND in Australia (1017 – 19). Listening to his underlying philosophies and strategies in the bulk of his address one can understand how this success story was attained.
The three basic components for company success were outlined as being Enhanced Consumer Experience < High Performance and Engaged Culture > Superior Commercial results. Profit, while important for shareholders, was seen as a pleasing end result of nurturing and supporting exceptional leaders. The popularity of the company as a place to work is shown in the fact that 58,000 people applied for 1000 jobs in recent times.
Chris recommended the book ‘Good to be Great’ by Jim Collins as a starting point to understanding his strategies and goals.  Why settle for ‘good; when ‘great’ is achievable? Even a summary of the strategies outlined by Chris would just about provide another book but in essences they were based on four ‘plans’, all involving discipline:
  1. Disciplined people – Chris wanted Level 5 people with him – humble but professional, prepared to set and achieve defined goals and having potential to go even further – his expectation was that at least 70% of those leaving the company would go to higher levels in  new undertakings. Close reviewing and mentoring aided this personal development.
  2. Disciplined thought – focussing on what can be controlled rather than finding excuses for things not working e.g. fuel prices, exchange rates, weather etc. etc. Confronting reality but thinking outside the square, finding what one can be passionate about but still focussing on the core and doing it well.
  3. Disciplined action – removing the ‘pain points’ from customer experiences e.g queues, lounges, cabin service, booking systems etc. (15 listed). The operational model had to focus on safety, reliability, service and profitability – in that order.
  4. Building to last – developing a competitive advantage and then holding it against all competition.  Becoming the world’s best – almost there, currently ranked 3rd!
In question time Chris fielded questions relating to his move into the political arena, one in which he admits to having to learn a lot but not afraid to start at the bottom and learn to ‘unlearn’ what might impede his future.  He made it clear that his desire was for public service rather than politics per se. Electorate first, party second and country third was his mantra – perhaps a foresight into his political future (?) In reference to NZ/China relations he used the expression – ‘we can disagree without being disagreeable’ – wise counsel in the current climate.
All attendees, I am sure, could not help but t be impressed by Chris’s openness, humility, depth of knowledge and thought, articulateness, sense of humour and, yes, charisma.  Botany could be the winner next month and if that is the case, so will the quality of our parliamentary representation.