The Brief

Australian universities face myriad marketplace changes, from intense global competition and rising student expectations to significant funding, immigration and economic challenges. To achieve sustainable growth, every university must recalibrate its operations.

With a team that combines academic excellence and strategic business smarts, Maximus works well with universities. We understand their needs and enjoy a strong reputation in this sector.

In 2017, we were engaged by Macquarie University’s Science and Engineering Faculty to develop and deliver a transformation program for their new faculty leadership team. The Executive Dean wanted to break down traditional silos to build a collaborative cohort of leaders who were engaged with the faculty’s strategic vision and armed with the modern leadership skills to execute it.

There were two major goals: helping the leadership team to position the faculty to be globally competitive, and facilitating individuals to make the personal shift from thinking like an academic to thinking like a leader.

“Most valuable aspect? Clarifying our purpose. Often we don’t get time to reflect on why we do what we are doing.”


To equip departmental and faculty leaders with the skills, mindsets and capabilities to meet the challenges facing their university, we designed a bespoke, strategic leadership program: IGNITE. A total of 19 faculty leaders went through the IGNITE program together.

The agenda was shaped by two themes we uncovered during the discovery phase.

  • Heads of Department (HODs) and Associate Deans (ADs) shared common challenges and needed to find purpose in their leadership role, but had differing leadership development needs (managing versus influencing others).
  • Leaders at all levels required strategic support to position their departments and faculty as globally competitive because traditionally, they focused on their immediate local environment.

These themes helped to shape the faculty’s customised leadership development program, which consisted of three immersive face-to-face leadership modules (personal, people and faculty), a critical strategic project and individual psychometric assessments.

The program was contextualised for Macquarie University, using applied learning methodologies based on tangible, meaningful examples taken from faculty life.


In feedback, 100 percent said the program was well or extremely well facilitated.

Common themes were the value of agreeing on a ‘’one faculty’ purpose, increased inter-departmental communication, and leaving with tools to deal with common leadership scenarios such as difficult meetings.

 “The group activities that bonded the leadership group were particularly successful and valuable.”

“Team building, both through sharing stories and through exercises, helped with recognition that we have different but related skills and that I should better make use of that diversity in my role.”

 “I will ask whether what I fill each day with is consistent with my higher vision and goals and work more closely with colleagues in other departments.”

“The NIDA training was very useful for understanding the effect of our behaviour on other people.”

We are currently discussing methodologies with Macquarie University for ROI reporting using measures that are important to them.



 “The group activities that bonded the leadership group were particularly successful and valuable.”