Carla Rossi-Zalmons

Explore insights from the speakers at World Business Forum Sydney 2023 and from our exclusive live interview with award winning film director James Cameron who offered true inspiration to the Maximus network.

For over two decades, we’ve given our all to those who have the courage to lead with bold ambition. This week, Maximus extended this vision in partnership with The World Business Forum, to elevate our quest to expose executives to what’s possible when you tap into the power of game changing leadership. The 2-day learning experience which was attended by over 1,000 delegates across the Asia Pacific, followed by a private Maximus event with the legendary James Cameron, gave our clients access to world famous thinkers, extraordinary doers and business icons from across the globe.

While it’s difficult to replicate the depth of insight and experience shared over the two days, we wanted to capture some of the key overarching themes for our network. A huge thank you to our valued clients and partners for making time to embrace this learning experience.

Day one. A masterclass in those essentials key to navigating today’s unchartered waters of business 

As we delved deeper into the intricate tapestry of modern business, the complexity facing today’s leaders became overwhelmingly apparent. The clear message was that management is a deliberate practice. You can ‘know’ what to do; but knowing something versus doing it are two very different things. Throughout the day, the focus rested on the ‘essentials’ for charting a course through uncertain waters as the speakers shared insights, strategies and inspiration in a voyage into the heart of organisational excellence.

“You build a high performance culture by embracing conflict…” Amy Gallo – high performance culture expert.

Amy explained that ‘artificial harmony’ is not healthy for a team or its culture. She reminded us that our goal shouldn’t be to rid a team of conflict; but to help it recover from conflict in an environment that champions psychological safety. “To do this, we need to get comfortable with mistakes – replacing blame with curiosity and focusing on learning, not just execution.”

“All of us are powerful; but we have forgotten that we are…” Amy Cuddy – social psychologist.

Amy explained the psychological phases experienced during a large-scale crisis, such as COVID-19, citing a significant loss of ‘personal power’ for many individuals which has caused a scarcity mindset, turning trust to distrust; allies to predators and action to inaction. “Post pandemic, we need to move from just ‘coping’ to ‘re-invigorating’ in the face of continued flux.” 

To do this, Amy believes we need to invest in ensuring each of us and our teams feel both powerful and empowered; so that we can rediscover our trust, agility and creativity. This requires our ‘presence’ as leaders; but crucially, “Presence begets presence; and trust is the conduit of influence. It’s the medium through which ideas travel.” 

“Your success depends on the quality of your questions…” Marshall Goldsmith – the world’s #1 executive coach.

Marshall believes that “The leader of the past knew how to tell; the leader of the future will know how to ask…” and that when it comes to both business and life, “How can I be better?” is one of the most powerful questions we can ask.

“Success is a pathway best defined by YOU…“ Indra Nooyi – Industry titan and business transformation expert and former CEO of Pepsico.

In a candid fireside chat, Indra spoke about her journey to redefine how a CEO ‘should’ look, sound and behave. Her key advice for managing others was that “When you tell people exactly how to fix something, you start to do their work for them…” She’s a passionate advocate for leaders who are both dreamers (able to set organisational direction and vision) and doers. “Direction is set on the left of the decimal; money is made on the right. Leaders must be able to operate confidently in both arenas,” believes Indra. 

“We can’t move the sustainability needle on our own…” Barney Tan – digital sustainability expert.

Barney championed unleashing the potential of information technology for social good. “To achieve this, we need an ecosystem perspective because contemporary organisations are networked and sustainability problems are complex. By harnessing the power of digital technologies, we can be more effective and efficient in attaining sustainability objectives – but this must be led by a team versed in adaptive leadership. Barney believes we can unlock a powerful ‘network effect’ through making collaboration and collective action our focus and sharing value with our ecosystem partners. 

Day 2. The mindsets and heartset behind modern leadership

It was a proud moment for Maximus to open Day 2 with Director James Keeler reminding us that “There has never been a more important time to ask questions about how we leave the world a better place, given the plethora of existential challenges.” As we delved into using purpose to galvanise individuals and teams to create a better society, the speakers travelled through some of the critical elements of the mindset and heartset behind modern leadership. 

“Dream on an impossibly large canvas” James Cameron – world-renowned movie director. 

James Cameron believes that we don’t take enough risks in business and in life. “As an artist, you need to take risks and do something that gets you and your team into a new space. Out of that will come something great. You will feel tested; and that’s a great space to be in,” he said. 

He also believes that leaders can instil a spirit of excellence through example. “If there’s that spirit of excellence, everyone has their own internal bar they want to live up to. The closer I communicate with people down the chain, the more I go through the problems with them, the more they understand the vision; the better the work.”

On teamwork, he’s resolute about the contribution of every member of the team and encouraging people to speak up. “Sometimes the answer can come from left field.” He also spoke about the importance of people feeling they’re the ‘best of the best’; and that it’s not an audition. “It’s easy to crush someone’s confidence; but a lot harder to build it up. That’s a learned art and it’s an important one.” And when it all goes wrong? “The most crucial thing in a moment of crisis or failure is to get a team to remember why they are there. Failure isn’t an option. Imagine it; and then engineer against it.”

On the topic of AI, James believes that the lived experience of an artist should always be at the forefront of their work. “AI should be an enabler; not a replacer. We need to ask: how can we adopt it into our process; and at what point do we draw a hard line between what is helping us; and what is replacing us?” He uses the example of computer generated music. “That’s good and well; but what happens when no one is there to show up for the concert?” 

“We cannot figure out what it means to be included; until we have felt what it feels like to be excluded” Modupe Akinola – renowned authority on organisational performance/diversity.  

Modupe’s talk, which followed a Q&A by Maximus founder Vanessa Gavan, could not have come at a more poignant moment in our history where we as citizens, communities and leaders are required to step up unequivocally in support of a fairer society. “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance… but I want to add – and maybe even letting someone else choose the music!” Modupe challenged. 

She shared that instead of looking for our commonalities when we speak to others, it’s time to look for and embrace our differences. “It’s time to expect everyone we interact with to be different to us; and to see this as our greatest strength,” said Modupe.  

“We need to build the skill to predict ‘the next big thing’” Peter Weill information systems expert and digital strategist. 

We all know that organisations need to build skills to predict the next big thing but how do you build a future-ready organisation? “Customer experience and operational efficiency are the two most important drivers of becoming future ready. These organisations innovate and reduce costs simultaneously; and this is the essence of a future-ready organisation,” explained Peter. 

“Work today is conversational, connected and intelligent” Derek Laney technology evangelist.

Work today has moved on from being linear, siloed and disconnected. Derek believes that 50% of work activities will be automated in 10 years or sooner. Given this, disruptors will be those who use AI to supercharge business innovation and productivity. 

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier” Kevin Roberts – innovation expert. 

To leaders facing volatility, uncertainty and constant disruption, Kevin’s advice was simple: “We talk about change; instead of painting a picture of the future.” The way to win is to set the vision and then employ the talent to achieve it. This requires adapting, improvising and overcoming with the understanding that “the way you do anything is the way you do everything,” so make it courageous. 

Game Changers Inspired live with James Cameron

The 2-days wrapped up with a triumphant moment for Maximus, when James Cameron shared his life story and leadership lessons with our clients and their special ‘plus 1’. What was most special were the children and students in the audience who were exposed to the wisdom of a man who has truly lent into his calling, his passion and ignited the fire within. 

“Imagine a better world…think of a better story…” were his opening comments from our ‘Game Changers Inspired’ event which captivated the audience’s hearts and minds. Amongst the plethora of awe inspiring insights shared by the legendary filmmaker, below are some of the most poignant themes and quotes which encapsulate the impact of his words.

  • On finding passion and purpose: “Passion does not come from one thing, you have to try a lot of things before you find your purpose…”
  • On self-belief: “The moment where you go from being curious and watching what others are doing; to ‘well I can do that’ is a critical leap…” 
  • On being deliberate: “The things I want to put my energy into day in and day out must have a higher purpose.” 
  • On perpetual learning: “Curiosity never stops…” 
  • On the natural world: “We can try to deny nature; but nature catches up with us…”
  • On adversity: “When we are pushed against the wall under duress, we can work together, push hard and find a way out of it together.”
  • On technology: “Technology is only going to be as good as how we wield it.”
  • On connection with your team: “You have to see the people you work with as complete people. Ask them about their lives and if there’s a problem, talk to them about it.”
  • On being wrong: “Don’t apologise privately. Apologise publicly. The hierarchy doesn’t go away but people will feel more empowered.”
  • On people’s opinion: “Listen to everyone, but reserve the right to not do what they say.”

It was certainly an awe inspiring 48 hours to remember, recognising the seismic impact leadership, when done well, can have on our personal lives, our teams, our communities, our family and society at large. We look forward to sharing more powerful game changing insights in the weeks to follow.





Carla lives and breathes bold transformation. With deep expertise across all aspects of the B2B marketing and customer-experience, Carla delivers end-to-end impact. An experienced industry CMO and Client Consulting Director within the financial and professional services industries, Carla brings a unique blend of commerciality, creativity and innovation to her role.



  • James Cameron
  • Leadership
  • Purpose
  • Vision
  • WOBI
  • World Business Forum
  • World Business Forum Sydney 2023

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