ADC Leadership Retreat 2011


The theme for the ADC Leadership Retreat 2011 was ‘On the edge – confidence in the face of fragility’. The ADC Leadership Retreat 2011 Report documents responses by leaders from the public and private sectors, academia and the broader community to the uncertainty and volatility exerting profound change across the globe.

‘On the edge – confidence in the face of fragility’, provided an apt and highly topical framing of the uncertainties and brittleness defining the state of the world. In the midst of the escalating European debt crisis, an embattled US economy, uprisings and riots, media and corruption scandals, and havoc-wreaking natural disasters, participants gathered at the Retreat seeking to make sense of their concerns and to navigate paths forward through the new fragility.

Our task was to identify the key elements of core changes and vulnerabilities and to generate a constructive response. Through this, we aimed to counter the defeatist sense of unease and lack of assuredness creeping in as a result of powerful structural shifts rapidly transforming Australia and the globe.

An energetic and multi-disciplinary group of leaders seized the opportunity to engage in intense deliberation, to share ideas, and to investigate the avenues through which we can endeavour to overcome insecurities and chart the future with greater clarity and optimism.

As always, the strong presence of international speakers provided a fascinating and insightful picture of the current geopolitical and global economic landscape. Insider perspectives on the woes of Europe and the US promoted vigorous discussion. The recovery of Japan and continued phenomenal growth in China and India – along with the risks and opportunities faced by Australia in the wider Asia-Pacific region – were also prominent topics, while speakers from Uganda and Mongolia broadened our international lens. On a global scale, the new reality fuelled by the inexorable rise of mobile communication devices and social media – and its enormous ramifications for media, security and more broadly the ways in which individuals and companies behave – was examined as a key development.

The international frame of reference served to underscore Australia’s enviable position. We passed the GFC stress-test with admirable results, and are uniquely located to harness opportunities presented by emerging Asian economic powerhouses. It was also cautioned, however, that Australia cannot afford to take its comparative advantage for granted, and that we must make a concerted effort to secure future prosperity through innovation and careful investment of resource boom profits.

As these issues were examined, participants often raised concerns at the apparent dearth of political leadership. The need to enact courageous decisions for the greater good, regardless of negative short-term repercussions, was highlighted as a matter of critical importance. Speakers also challenged the status quo, scrutinising intergenerational policy and the fundamental systems of capitalism and democracy, and demanding that we seriously confront the limits to growth.

While the failings of both governments and markets have been painfully exposed, participants drew hope from the empowering opportunity to learn, evolve and create new institutions. Insights into the exciting possibilities being pursued at the forefront of science further contributed to rising optimism. Despite volatility, participants found there is reasonable cause to stand ‘on the edge’ with confidence.

The ADC Leadership Retreat 2011 would not have been possible without the generous support of our Partners.


  • Accenture
  • Bain & Company
  • Etihad Airways
  • Goldman Sachs
  • KPMG
  • L.E.K. Consulting
  • Minter Ellison Lawyers
  • The University of Queensland
  • Mallesons Stephen Jacques
  • Mulpha
  • Oxford Analytica