What would Shackleton do? And what we can all learn from him… 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:

Q: Let’s talk about the build back from that (your time in Parliament), because I meet plenty of executives who have professional or personal setbacks of some kind and, some people respond and overcome them better than others.

What are you skills or/and experiences with this? What do you take from that, that has set you up for your future career?

Mike Kaiser:

I said I resigned from Parliament. The reality was one of those situations where I had no choice.

I found myself without a career and an income. When leaving NBN Co the same thing happened, and I set myself back up in consulting.

These events were a blessing because they really do build resilience.

Not much can knock you around when you’ve been through experiences like that, so it’s built up a degree of resilience.

It means that I’m not too phased by things which might phase others.

One of my heroes is Shackleton, if people don’t know the story of Shackleton, but he was an Antarctic explorer on his way to the South Pole.  His ship was frozen in ice a long way from land. His ship gets crushed and sinks.

So he’s out there with his whole crew with summer coming, which is going to bolt the ice so he’s, and one of his one of the things he famously said was “Difficulties are just things to overcome.”

And I think given some of the tough experiences I’ve had in my career, I now take that attitude.


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


About IPAA Queensland:

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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.