Peter Piliouras (ILF2014)


Institution: Harvard Business School (USA)
Course: High Potential Leadership Program

I am grateful to Geoff Vogt and the Industry Leaders Fund for providing me with the opportunity to attend Harvard Business School. 

I am the Chief Operating Officer at OTR, one of Australia’s most successful retailers with a convenience retail concept recognised in the industry world-wide as market-leading.

My journey with OTR started over 15 years ago with what was intended to be once-off work experience. That led to part-time work, which turned into a full-time career and I have never looked back. My professional success has been due in a large part to people willing to make an investment in my development and offering me opportunities to prove myself. Today I am in a position where I can do the same for others.

The timing of the ILF grant was ideal as the business was facing many changes from unpreceded growth and expansion into different areas, notably wholesale fuel and new fast food brands. I needed to adapt as a leader with those changes.

I attended the High Potentials Leadership Program at Harvard Business School. This involved working with leaders from across the globe. We were split into working groups and assigned living quarters. We worked through several subjects all designed to improve leadership and management skills. I made many friends and valuable contacts.

Two key learnings (of many) from the course: the first is on improving effectiveness from people working in teams. Using practical exercises, we discovered better outcomes from increasing the diversity of the team and using meeting processes which draw input from everyone, including those whose voices are too often drowned out, and building on ideas as a group.

The second was on leadership styles. We can often draw inspiration or be influenced by what we see those that we admire as leaders do. However, in examining leadership styles, the case studies show there is no ‘one-size fits all’ style. The best leadership style is adapted to suit both the people and the scenario.

Since returning from Harvard, I have put into practice the lessons learned and this has had a positive influence on my capability and success as a leader in our organisation. As I have adapted, and continued to adapt, I have been in the position to help others do so, drawing on what I learned.

Thanks again to Geoff and ILF for giving me this opportunity.