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Leading with purpose – Louise Adams wins Australian ‘CEO of the Year’


“Our world has changed, and our leadership must change with it," says Louise Adams.

13 November 2020 – Aurecon’s Chief Executive, Australia & New Zealand, has won CEO Magazine’s 2020 Australian CEO of the Year award.

Louise Adams, who took over the top Australia & New Zealand role at the international engineering, design and advisory firm in 2019, has championed empathy and innovation to lead her 4,000-strong workforce through the pandemic.

“2020 has been a year of huge upheaval which called for a very nuanced version of leadership. A modern leader needs to constantly demonstrate empathy for our employees, clients and communities. At their very core, they must be driven by purpose – not just profit.”

Adam’s experience in the last year has crystalised her belief in the importance of business innovation serving society to create a positive legacy.

“During the pandemic, communities looked to business for solutions – and we rose to the occasion. Now, more than ever, businesses will be expected to stand for something. We must use our innovation capabilities to help address the complex environmental and social equity challenges that face the world. CEOs will champion this outreach. Our stewardship extends beyond the boardroom and into our communities.”

Adams also believes that, partly because of this expanded mandate, in a post-COVID world, CEOs will be demonstrably different than what we have seen in the past 50 years.

“Our world has changed, and our leadership must change with it. We will still need a mixture of the more traditional leadership qualities, such as being decisive, intelligent, calm and able to show a clear road ahead that builds confidence and hope. However, an exceptional leader will be able to build followership in a world where trust is at an all-time low."

Adams started her career with Aurecon in 2000 as a graduate civil engineer in Aurecon’s Adelaide office. She went on to gain extensive international experience in the UK, Australia, Ireland, Iran, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Singapore, Guyana, North America, Pakistan, Libya, Qatar, and the UAE.

By the age of 34, Adams was the Country Manager for Aurecon’s UAE business. In 2013, she was the first female Executive Director appointed to Aurecon’s Global Board and in 2015 became the Region Managing Director for South Australia and Victoria.

As one of the few female leaders in the infrastructure industry, Adams understands her responsibilities as a role model for young female scientists and engineers.

“For girls to stick with STEM subjects at school, and for women to complete engineering degrees and aim for leadership roles, they need to see what’s possible. I recognise I need to be a highly visible leader who takes her influence seriously. It’s about being assertive, effective and inspirational, building diverse teams, driving innovation and having the courage to continually challenge the status quo.”

In 2018, Adams was awarded a Chief Executive Women (CEW) Scholarship to attend the Wharton Business School and is a member of Australia’s CEW group.

She has recently been appointed to the Board of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and is a committee member for Infrastructure Partnerships Australia’s Women’s Infrastructure Network Steering Committee. She is also the Chair to Consult Australia’s Male Champions of Change.

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