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Fred Schebesta’s top tips on business leadership

by Duncan Khoury , May 09 2019

Octet’s latest guide from the Powering Business series focuses on The Power of Influence and how this invaluable skill can be used to benefit people and businesses.

As part of the research that brought the deep dive to life, we caught up with multi-award-winning entrepreneur, Fred Schebesta, founder of the comparison website Finder.com.

Upon speaking with Fred, it quickly became apparent that a proficiency in influence is tied up in the broader domain of leadership. So, to supplement our comprehensive Power of Influence piece, we thought we’d share some more of Fred’s key insights into what it takes to lead a phenomenally successful, global company.

Introducing Fred

Fred Schebesta seems like the kind of leader who’s easy to rally behind. He’s charismatic and vibrantly expressive as he talks, gesticulating energetically with every word. His head is held high and his chest out as he strides around Finder HQ in Sydney. Walking into the office feels like you’re boarding a space station – like the sky’s the limit, that the possibilities are limitless.

The business was founded around the idea of helping people make better decisions; today that number equates to 2 million a month in Australia alone. Now with locations around the world and hundreds of employees, Fred Schebesta has learned a few things about leadership in his business-building journey…

Fair over firm

In sharing his wisdom, a key insight that Fred continues to return to is that good leaders aren’t as ruthless and tough as one might expect.

“A lot of people use authority to lead. I think over time that becomes less and less effective. You become more of a dictator as opposed to a leader. Whereas, if you use influence and build more love, I think that people will trust and like you more. I don’t think at any point in time you need to scream and shout.”

However, there are times when a firm touch is needed for the best results or where your team may even appreciate such a leader: “Some people will be authoritative, and there are good times for doing that. I think it’s about choosing that leadership style in the situation that you’re in.”

Different strokes for different folks

In terms of leadership styles, theorists claim that there are a number of categories which people tend to fall into. These are: the visionary – coaching – affiliative – democratic – pacesetting – and the commanding. The “scream and shout” approach that Fred mentioned earlier would come under the commanding category.

Fred himself could be seen as falling into several of the above styles, though he shares, “I see my role as leader as being the coach and the support, not pushing people to get something.”

That being said, what kind of persona you take on should be adapted to your situation to some extent. Leaders should weigh every situation in terms of how best to bring about the best outcomes on a long-term basis. Fred uses a somewhat humorous (though illuminating) analogy to explain this point:

“At times you need to push and strive for more. Other times you need to pull, in those strategic little moments. Imagine that you can only make a certain number of moves, like a ninja master who only has one chop. And that one chop has an echo effect. You have to think about those key moments and then make a considered decision.”

Taking charge

In order to get a team to trust you as a leader, you need to not only consider others but also your own actions. Taking charge means taking responsibility, putting in the work and stepping up to the plate when something is difficult or if things goes wrong.

Fred shares, “I think that everyone should take responsibility entirely for themselves and the actions and the choices they make. If you go above and beyond, I think people will appreciate that. I think people enjoy when others take responsibility for things when they didn’t need to. That’s called a hero. That’s called courage.”

Be real

Beyond any lofty ideas, tactics or strategic thinking, being a good leader has some fundamentals that are simple to grasp and put into practice. If Fred had to boil down what makes an influential leader into one key piece of advice, it would be this:

“Just be yourself. Be 100% aligned and truthful and integrous to who you are, all the time. Because actually, all the good things you have and the bad things make up who you are. And people will love you for it. That’s what makes you really powerful.”


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Duncan Khoury

Duncan Khoury

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