TOP 200 : Deloitte/Management magazine Executive of the Year – Rob Fyfe

During year when international airlines have been hit by recession, volatile fuel prices and the need to operate in more carbon-constrained world, Air New Zealand’s Rob Fyfe has been making headlines for all the right reasons.
Whether it’s seizing the environmental high ground – as he did recently with hard-hitting advice for global policy makers to stop debating and start taking action on climate change – or spicing up saucy marketing campaign by appearing in new ad dressed only in body paint, Fyfe has knack of hitting just the right note when it comes to communications.
As finalist in the 2008 Deloitte/Management Executive of the Year award, Fyfe was already being lauded as the “polished and personable face of the new lean and globally competitive” airline. He’d then been in the driving seat for just three years having previously held the roles of chief information officer and group general manager, airlines. In the 12 months since, his reputation has continued to grow – even in the face of major drop in the company’s net profit.
He once described the essence of crisis management as “managing from the heart” and his own leadership style as being “very intuitive”. It was those characteristics that were at the fore in November last year with his upfront and emotional response to the Airbus 320 crash in France. And more recently when as head of Air New Zealand, he made public apology for his company’s handling of the 1979 Erebus crash in Antarctica.
Alongside the ability to front up in tough times and make the hard decisions, Fyfe has shown keen sense of strategy in positioning the Air New Zealand brand. Marketing campaigns build the image of smart company from small country that’s prepared to be innovative, have bit of fun and carve out unique Kiwi-style niche in an increasingly competitive global market.
He has overseen the introduction of several new initiatives – among them the innovative ‘grab-a-seat’ option and the streamlining of domestic check-in systems. Nor is the airline shying away from new investment – it recently announced the decision to buy 14 new Airbus A320 aircraft to replace its current domestic jet fleet of Boeing 737-300s.
Originally trained in the Royal New Zealand Air Force, Fyfe has proved capable of flying high in his business career but he does it by bringing people with him. He believes that everyone at Air New Zealand has leadership role to play in their own sphere of influence – whether at the check-in counter or in the boardroom.

Winner : Rob Fyfe
Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand’s Rob Fyfe is flying high. He has, in the past year, unmistakably proved himself an outstanding chief executive. He has piloted his company through extraordinary local and global turbulence. His open and very personal style of leadership has been inspirational. His sensitive handling of the airbus crash off the coast of France is something of “blue print” for how to handle stressful personal and organisational tragedies. Rob understands what small airlines must do to succeed in competitive global market – be nimble, flexible and prepared to make decisive calls on routes, aircraft configurations and changing traveller demands. He was finalist in this Top 200 category last year and this year has shown the depth of his strategic and operational leadership. Rob Fyfe is undoubtedly the Deloitte/Management magazine Top 200 Executive of the Year.

FINALIST : Jim Delegat
Delegat’s Group

Jim Delegat is, the master of his wines. He is also vintage leader who has cultivated the Delegat’s Group strategy almost since inception. He is passionate advocate for the New Zealand wine industry and of his company. He is uniquely individual leader of huge personal commitment. He knows where the company is going and how to take it there. Jim has high expectations of himself, his employees and his company’s outstandingly good wines.

FINALIST : Patrick Strange
Transpower New Zealand

Patrick Strange accepted difficult challenge when he took over as chief executive of Transpower. He has effectively and positively recharged the business by changing its culture and its attitude toward delivering results and being accountable. He is straight shooter who refuses to fudge the facts. He is also an energy industry leader of many years standing who is willing to take spokesman’s role, even when the news is not good. An enormously positive and insightful leader, Patrick Strange is, in the judges’ opinion, the right man for the times.

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