Fortune favours the bold. Insights from Mike Kaiser as he sat on the couch…

On the 30th November 2022, IPAA Queensland in partnership with LuminaryTM was delighted to host our final Stewards on the Couch series for the year.

This event saw Mike Kaiser, Director-General for the Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning take to the couch to have a conversation with Russell Fairbanks, Managing Director of LuminaryTM.

During this conversation, attendees heard more about Mike’s diverse career, his leadership journey, career challenges, and priorities for his portfolio.

An engaging and honest conversation about the highs and lows of Mike’s career and his approach, this is one of many articles sharing the insights and learnings received by the participants in the room.

Russell Fairbanks:

Mike – you’ve previously said, I’m not going to quote you, but you have previously said the government, is it at its best when it leaves.

You’ve also said many times that public and private sector leaders need to give it a crack.

So, what does that look like?

What does being bold, and having a vision range look like – because of course in in a 24 hour news cycle and one of social media which we’re going to get to in a moment.

There’s a lot of risk in that. Being visionary involved with leadership.

Mike Kaiser:

If you don’t include being an MP or staffing for politicians, my public service career goes like this. Class One graduate electrical engineer for Queensland Rail. Director-General. I reckon that’s the way to do a public service career.

But coming back into the broader concept of public service as opposed to the private sector. One of the things that shocked me because I was out of that game completely for 12 years floating around doing other things is just – it’s bloody timid.

There is a real timidity in the public service. I think I get why that’s happened.

It’s the pressure of the media. It’s our advice sometimes not being appreciated by politicians.

There’s a whole bunch of reasons for it.

I really notice it because I left and came back.

In a way that I suspect people who have stayed might not notice it, and I spent a lot of time trying to remind my team about what the role of the public service is, the role of the public service is to stand coded over the private sector and to find ways to together solve societies problems.

But that means us being as entrepreneurial as they are, as bold as they are, as courageous as they are.

And having seen the relationship from both sides, the private sector will take advantage of government, if public servants don’t stand toe to toe with them and get the best outcome for the people.

Boldness in our advice. Boldness in our action.

Preparedness to always try to get the best outcome for the people of Queensland.

Don’t seem you know about leveling playing fields. I’m not interested in leveling playing fields. I’m interested in tilting them in favour of the industries we want to create.

I’m interested in the public service being prepared to take appropriate risk.

I am interested in public service being prepared to have a crack to, you know, to create the industries and to create the livability and lifestyle that Queenslanders deserve.

You know it’s a kind of boldness and preparedness to have a go and preparedness. To be frank and fearless in our advice that, I think is a bit too missing at the moment.


We thank LuminaryTM for their support in making this event possible.


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IPAA Queensland advances the professionalism, capability and integrity of public administration and public purpose work and promotes pride in service.

If you’re a public servant or engaged in public purpose work, we encourage you to get to know and connect with IPAA Queensland. Find out more about us by reading more on our site or through joining as a member here.


About IPAA Queensland’s Stewards On The Couch Series:

Stewards on the Couch is a regular and highly popular feature of IPAA’s annual event program, where one or more chief executives is joined by a respected journalist or facilitator ‘on the couch’ for an informal, conversation-style interview.

These events provide the IPAA community an opportunity to learn more about the influences, priorities, and core values of stewards leading public purpose work along with the key challenges and opportunities facing their organisation and/or sector.  Guests are invited to stay for networking and refreshments after the interview.


About Mike Kaiser:

Mike Kaiser is Director-General of the Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning. He leads the department which oversees the Queensland Government’s agenda to drive economic growth and enhance the state’s lifestyle through good infrastructure and planning outcomes.

He brings more than 30 years’ experience to the role, having built a successful career in private and public sector leadership and consultancy.

Most recently, Mike was Director-General of the Department of Resources. Other public sector experiences include working as chief of staff to premiers in both Queensland and New South Wales.

In the private sector, Mike was a partner at KPMG and contributed to the Queensland COVID-19 Taskforce Economic Recovery Plan in that capacity.

Known as a strategic thinker and inclusive leader, Mike demonstrated strong customer focus throughout his time at NBN Co, where he led the business change and improvement function and introduced processes to measure and enhance customer satisfaction.

Mike completed his academic qualifications at the University of Queensland, earning bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and economics as well as a Graduate Certificate in Management.