DDI and The Australian Financial Review Announce BOSS Young Executives for 2023

July 21, 2023

DDI’s Day-in-the-Life Executive Leadership Assessment Identifies Australia’s Brightest Up-and-Coming Leaders

SYDNEY — The six recipients of this year’s Australian Financial Review (AFR) BOSS Young Executives competition are an accomplished, strategic and future-focused group that demonstrated outstanding leadership to win this prestigious competition, which is hosted in partnership with global leadership consulting firm DDI.

Now in its 20th year, the BOSS Young Executives recognise Australia’s most promising executives under 35 years old. The judging process was hosted virtually, using videoconferencing technology and DDI’s virtual leadership assessment solutions. Award recipients came together in Sydney for an in-person awards ceremony and lunch, and were joined by our judges, award alumni and executives from The Australian Financial Review BOSS and DDI.

The competition consisted of 10 shortlisted applicants. They participated in DDI’s executive simulation assessment and interviews with a panel of senior business leaders. The assessment identified well-rounded young executives showing emotional intelligence, business aptitude, innovation and leadership skills to excel in an executive role. The panel selected six winners who showed a solid understanding of their company’s goals and clear and effective leadership skills. They also demonstrated a strong commitment to the advancement of business and the wider community.

“We continue to receive such impressive applications for this award. This year’s cohort stood out not only for the incredible contributions these top six young leaders are making to their organisations, but to the broader Australian community,” said Dominique Powrie, Managing Director of DDI. “They are an exceptionally well-balanced and talented group, all of whom have a clear vision and strong sense of direction to drive their organisations’ future success amid today’s rapidly changing business landscape.”

This year’s winners are:

  • Jessica Hallett, Head of Digital Strategy, Partnerships and Innovation, Westpac
  • David Donnoli, Associate Director Operations ANZ, Swisse Wellness
  • Angus Ferguson, Head of Customer Solutions, Domain Group
  • Andrew Cooper, Head of Transformation, Woolworths Group
  • Emma Wright, Chief People Officer, WorkCover Queensland
  • Naureen Alam, Group Manager Future Low Carbon Portfolio, AGL

Each finalist demonstrated exceptional executive leadership skills during DDI’s challenging day-long virtual executive simulation. During the simulation, they stepped into the role of Group President of a fictional $28 billion artificial intelligence company operating in today’s agile world. The assessment analysed participants’ key business leadership skills.

These skills included developing a strategic business plan, analysing business data, presenting a compelling vision and influencing a key business partner. The finalists were also assessed on their business acumen, ability to drive results, create an inclusive environment, listen and respond with empathy and lead in a virtual environment. Afterward, they received extensive feedback on their strengths and development areas, creating a development plan for further success.

As DDI analysed data from the BOSS Young Executive Awards over the past two decades, several trends and insights have emerged about the way executive leadership is evolving:

  • Leaders are becoming more focused on their external customers. In the 2000s and 2010s, customer focus rarely emerged as a top skill for young executives. However, in the post-COVID world, customer focus has become one of the top three competencies that successful young executives demonstrate.
  • Early executives need to focus on developing their ability to influence strategically and drive innovation. Young executives today are struggling more than their counterparts in previous decades to drive innovation and show strategic influence. These are some of the weakest skills among today’s young executives and should be a focus for organisations that are developing the next generation for key roles.
  • Today’s young executives are more likely to be well-suited for leadership. Compared to executives in the program two decades ago, today’s most promising young executives show a stronger personal tendency toward leadership. Recent awardees in the program also show strong personality patterns that enable their success as leaders, such as ambition, resilience and interpersonal sensitivity. They also show fewer personality tendencies that can derail their success, such as volatility, arrogance and perfectionism.
  • The biggest risk to young executives is avoidance of big problems. The most enduring challenge for young executives is a tendency under pressure to avoid addressing issues directly. In many cases, this may be related to a natural aversion to conflict and a desire to promote harmony among their peers and teams. However, it is a tendency that they must learn to consciously manage as they progress to higher roles of leadership and become responsible for addressing difficult and divisive challenges.

“DDI is thrilled to celebrate our 20-year partnership with the AFR BOSS Young Executives competition and to share our research on how the traits of successful young executives continue to evolve,” Powrie said. “These rich leadership insights will continue to catapult these young executives forward as they deepen their impact on their organisations and communities.” 


About DDI

DDI is a global leadership consulting firm that helps organisations hire, promote and develop exceptional leaders. From first-time managers to C-suite executives, DDI is by leaders’ sides, supporting them in every critical moment of leadership. Built on five decades of research and experience in the science of leadership, DDI’s evidence-based assessment and development solutions enable millions of leaders around the world to succeed, propelling their organisations to new heights. For more information, visit ddiworld.com.