They said she couldn’t do it, but Gladys Berejiklian has just helped deliver an unprecedented third term for the Coalition parties in NSW, making history along the way as the first woman to be popularly elected Premier of Australia’s most populous state.

Almost from the moment she was elected to replace Mike Baird two years ago, sections of the media and even some in her own party, had doubts as to whether the daughter of Armenian migrants had what it takes to succeed.

Half way through the election campaign, many commentators had all but written off Berejiklian, describing her campaign (and her staffers), as lacklustre, uninspired, and slow-moving.

Well, the proof is in the pudding.

In fact, the election result has some important lessons for Australian business leaders, especially at a time when trust in our corporate sector in general and financial services in particular, is at an all-time low.

Here are the three most important lessons:


With Berejiklian, what you see if what you get. There is no pretence. As those who know her best have confirmed, she is hard working, unpretentious, a straight talker and well, pleasant. She is no show pony.

In business, as in politics, authenticity is a rare but prized attribute. It means less spin. It means you do what you said you were going to do. And if for whatever reason, you cannot deliver, then tell us – and tell us why.

In other words, substance over style.

Attention to detail

Often described as a micromanager, Berejiklian was clearly on top of her brief throughout the campaign.

This was best illustrated during the second television debate when Labor leader Michael Daley struggled to remember the funding costs of his signature policies. On the other hand, Berejiklian had the numbers that mattered at her fingertips.

Again, in business, you need to be on top of your brief. Before you tell me your vision for the business, make sure you have taken care of the details.

You need to explain clearly and succinctly what you are trying to do and how you intend to get there. It’s the least you can do for your shareholders, your customers and your staff.

Be flexible

By week two of the campaign, Berejiklian and her team had lost momentum. It was all running Labor’s way, which had ramped up its criticism of the Government’s decision to knock down and rebuild the Sydney stadium at a cost to taxpayers of over $700 million.

With polling numbers confirming the stadium issue was hurting, Berejiklian changed tactics.

Having initially (and embarrassingly) refused to even mention out loud the word “stadium”, she took control of the situation by explaining how spending money on much-needed sporting facilities did not mean taking money away from schools or hospitals.

Business leaders tend to talk a lot about the need to be nimble in an increasingly competitive market place, which is reassuring.

Unfortunately for them, many of our major businesses now resemble huge transatlantic liners – once they set on a particular course, it is very difficult to change trajectory, let alone to turn around.

And this is not just because they are huge organisations with multiple (and often contradictory) stakeholders. Rather, it’s because in many cases the culture of these organisations tends to reward orthodoxy. After all, that’s how you get to the top.