Strong leadership crucial to winning defence work

Strong leadership crucial to winning defence work
A Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton. Australia is set to acquire 7.

Whether you are a SME in the defence space or a prime with the backing of multibillion-dollar parent company, creating an environment with quality leadership can make or break a company's success in securing defence programs, says one defence industry leader.

Northrop Grumman Australia chief executive Ian Irving joined the Defence Connect Podcast where he discussed the expansion of Northrop's Australian presence and its recent success securing the $223 million JP 2008 Phase 5B2.

And as the company looks to secure more lucrative contracts, Irving says its the leadership at the business that will be crucial in seeing ongoing success

"Well, it is all about the people," Irving began.

"Great companies are made from great people that can work collaboratively in teams. I was actually at one of our leadership forums ... and I was talking to the leaders about the fact that it's hard to grow a company.

"It's easy to shrink, and I've been in those modes as well, it's hard to grow a company. You need to grow the people at the same time." 

Irving says, moving forward, there will be anywhere between 200 to 400 new employees at Northrop Grumman Australia, providing an opportunity to foster strong leadership.

"As we're adding maybe two, three, four hundred people into the company over the coming years we've got to grow our own leadership capabilities and grow ourselves at the same time. That places a great opportunity on our leaders to kind of rise up and grow with that growth, but it's also an obligation on us to be able to bring those new people into an environment that's healthy and stable and growing."

But compared with its US parent company Northrop Grumman, Irving says Australia's defence sector is far from stable, a challenge with which the Australian business' leaders must learn to deal.

"One of the things that really challenges us is being able to start these [defence] programs well, being able to build the capabilities and build that leadership framework all at the same time. We're not in a stable environment. I often talk to my US colleagues who are in a very stable environment where they win programs and they've got teams established and things are a little bit more static.

But this challenge is all part of Northrop Grumman Australia growing its brand, said Irving, and it is a challenge he is looking forward to.

"We're actually growing an enterprise at the same time as looking to execute these programs. It's incredibly exciting. It's exactly what I love doing. But it is reliant on growing our leaders at the same time and bringing in new people into that environment," he said.

"As with anything leadership, it's leadership by influence. My role, I'm not in control of the big sectors in the United States, so we're there to collaborate and manage and lead by influence. That requires a lot of co-ordination. There's a lot of moving parts. It's very exciting to be doing that but it's not a command and control environment. We're really working in teams and collaborating. That's also a challenge but it's also very exciting in that opportunity."

To hear more from Northrop Grumman Australia CEO, tune in to our exclusive podcast here.



Strong leadership crucial to winning defence work
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