Business News

Painting Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce as a superhero is part of a long Australian tradition

  • Written by Claire Wright, Research Fellow, Centre for Workforce Futures, Macquarie University

Alan Joyce is Australia’s highest-paid chief executive[1].

Alan Joyce is one of the Financial Review’s ten most covertly powerful people[2].

Alan Joyce writes heartwarming notes to children[3].

Alan Joyce is getting married[4].

And he is apparently some sort of superhero[5].

Something about chief executives brings forth testimonials like this[6], published in the News Corporation tabloids last month, which followed the revelation that Joyce was Australia’s highest paid corporate chief (taking home A$24 million[7] in 2018-19).

Penned by Angela Mollard, a journalist specialising in celebrities, it said he had[8]

turned around a failing company, put thousands of dollars in shareholders’ pockets, boosted the superannuation of Mr and Mrs Average and prevented thousands from losing their jobs.

Joyce, and all the best chief executives, she argued, were

alchemists, strategists, innovators and geniuses. They have the sort of agile brains that produce solutions to problems which seem intractable. They lead not from a textbook but from an internal well of brilliance that seems constantly replenished.

Further, executives like Joyce deserved to be rewarded for

the risks they take, the entrepreneurship they exhibit, the education they’ve invested in and the particular brand of brilliance that comes along all too rarely.

It’s been said before

I’ve been examining the language used to describe Australia’s elite executives over the past 100 years, and what’s being said about Joyce is familiar - right down to the use of the word “genius”.

This kind of talk, repeated for more than a century now, leads us astray if we keep repeating it. It creates misunderstandings about how large companies work. Chief executives aren’t superhuman, their characteristics are not those of their companies, they don’t single-handedly determine the fate of those companies or personally employ their workers, they aren’t necessarily selfless or patriotic, and they don’t necessarily have the best interests of the nation at heart.

Read more: CEOs who take a political stand are seen as a bonus by job applicants[9]

Sir Charles Mackellar[10], chairman of the Mutual Life & Citizens’ Assurance Company and a director of a host of other companies including the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was labelled a “genius[11]” when he died in 1914.

FA Govett, the London-based head of Australia’s Zinc Corporation was labelled as a “man of exceptional ability[12]” in 1926.

Often they had higher ideals.

Sir William Lennon Raws[13], a director of four of Australia’s biggest companies including BHP and Elder Smith, was a “well-meaning capitalist with a dream[14]”.

Like Joyce and his contemporaries that work their “butts off to do the right thing[15]”, Raws was

palpably rich and could be richer; but I doubt if the making of another million would be as much to him as the achievement of one of his cherished hopes.

It’s their own work

image Daily Telegraph, May 6, 1926[16] Executives have long been seen as the sole reason for their company’s success. In 2019, Joyce single-handedly “took a beleaguered company and transformed it[17]”. Similarly, in the late 1800s, BHP director William Jamieson[18] was solely responsible[19] for the development of the Broken Hill region. Robert Philp[20] of Burns Philp and Company was an Australian patriot who “controlled her destinies during a critical period[21]”. Industrialist and car manufacturer Edward Holden[22] worked tirelessly to “benefit the state and the company”[23]. Corporate director and university chancellor Sir Normand Maclaurin[24] was “endowed with talents of a very high order […] having at heart the welfare of the nation”. They’re exceptional Joyce’s success might be due to his “big dick energy”, but he wasn’t the first. In the early 1900s, Joseph Pratt – director of the National Bank of Australasia, the Land Mortgage Bank, the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company and Metropolitan Gas Company – was described in the most masculine of terms as a big man[25][26][27] tall, erect, well-made and muscular. He has a pleasant, manly face, indicative of straightforwardness and goodness of disposition, and upon which grows a russet beard, containing a few grey hairs… Sir Mark Sheldon[28] - chairman of the Waterloo Glass Bottle Works, a director of the Australian Bank of Commerce, and vice president of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce - also also big [29], big in his outlook, his ideas, and his accomplishments. Perhaps his height (6 feet, 1.5 inches) enables him to look a bit farther ahead than the ordinary man Painting corporate chiefs like this gives corporations a human face. It helps convince customers and investors that their money is in safe hands. If Alan Joyce is a ‘good man’, then the Qantas Group is seen as a good company. Read more: Swollen executive pay packets reveal the limits of corporate activism[30] It also makes executives untouchable. After all, if they are blessed with unique or exceptional abilities, and if their company is doing well (whatever the reason), it is hard to argue with the millions being spent on them. Even if it’s $24 million, even if it’s more.


  1. ^ highest-paid chief executive (www.abc.net.au)
  2. ^ ten most covertly powerful people (www.afr.com)
  3. ^ heartwarming notes to children (twitter.com)
  4. ^ getting married (www.msn.com)
  5. ^ superhero (www.news.com.au)
  6. ^ like this (www.news.com.au)
  7. ^ A$24 million (www.abc.net.au)
  8. ^ said he had (www.news.com.au)
  9. ^ CEOs who take a political stand are seen as a bonus by job applicants (theconversation.com)
  10. ^ Sir Charles Mackellar (adb.anu.edu.au)
  11. ^ genius (trove.nla.gov.au)
  12. ^ man of exceptional ability (trove.nla.gov.au)
  13. ^ Sir William Lennon Raws (adb.anu.edu.au)
  14. ^ well-meaning capitalist with a dream (trove.nla.gov.au)
  15. ^ butts off to do the right thing (www.news.com.au)
  16. ^ Daily Telegraph, May 6, 1926 (trove.nla.gov.au)
  17. ^ took a beleaguered company and transformed it (www.news.com.au)
  18. ^ William Jamieson (adb.anu.edu.au)
  19. ^ solely responsible (trove.nla.gov.au)
  20. ^ Robert Philp (adb.anu.edu.au)
  21. ^ controlled her destinies during a critical period (trove.nla.gov.au)
  22. ^ Edward Holden (adb.anu.edu.au)
  23. ^ benefit the state and the company” (trove.nla.gov.au)
  24. ^ Sir Normand Maclaurin (trove.nla.gov.au)
  25. ^ big dick energy (www.news.com.au)
  26. ^ Joseph Pratt (adb.anu.edu.au)
  27. ^ big man (trove.nla.gov.au)
  28. ^ Sir Mark Sheldon (adb.anu.edu.au)
  29. ^ also big (trove.nla.gov.au)
  30. ^ Swollen executive pay packets reveal the limits of corporate activism (theconversation.com)

Authors: Claire Wright, Research Fellow, Centre for Workforce Futures, Macquarie University

Read more http://theconversation.com/painting-qantas-chief-executive-alan-joyce-as-a-superhero-is-part-of-a-long-australian-tradition-124167

Business Daily Media Business Development

4 Best Budget-Friendly Attractions in Las Vegas

Perhaps no other city in the world deserves the moniker “Sin City” more than Las Vegas. This city has been illustrated in countless works of art as the place where dreams are made, lives a...

News Company - avatar News Company

Bahrain Property Show 2018: How does it reflect the real estate market development in Bahrain

It is no secret that the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are currently going through a lot of pivotal changes. Such changes do not include economic or po...

News Company - avatar News Company

Di Jones real estate recognises high achievers

Di Jones celebrated its outstanding performers on Saturday (24 February 2018) evening at the Di Jones Real Estate Annual Awards.                               The black-tie Gala Dinner s...

Helen Hull - avatar Helen Hull

Five Reasons Melbourne Rules

If you are traveling in Australia and have left Melbourne off your destination list, then you are going to want to reconsider. Many people consider Melbourne to the best city in the world...

News Feature Team - avatar News Feature Team

Making Friends During Your Campsite Stay

Part of the excitement of vacation is meeting people who you would never otherwise encounter. Staying at a campsite isn’t just about taking in nature. It’s also about sharing the beauty of n...

News Feature Team - avatar News Feature Team

Have More Fun On Your Business Trips

Whether you are a traveling salesman or someone who finds themselves on the road more than in their office you probably are grateful for any tips you can get especially if they involve havin...

News Feature Team - avatar News Feature Team

Business Daily Media Business Reports

Di Jones real estate recognises high achievers

Di Jones celebrated its outstanding performers on Saturday (24 February 2018) evening at the Di Jones Real Estate Annual Awards.                               The bla...

Helen Hull - avatar Helen Hull

Eclipse Travel Expands Operations to New Zealand

Eclipse Travel, specialists in key adventure destinations such as Antarctica, the Arctic, Africa and Latin America, have announced today their expansion of operations to ...

Yvonne Kong - avatar Yvonne Kong

How medical professionals can benefit from an overall wealth management solution

As a health care professional, you have made it your life's work to focus on the care and health of the general public. While this kind of work can be extremely rewarding...

News Feature Team - avatar News Feature Team

Why Pinterest Should Be Part of Your Marketing Strategy

Pinterest is a growing social media platform that can deliver significant traffic to your website and new followers to your brand. With it’s steady growth and outrageous ...

Greg Nunan - avatar Greg Nunan

The top reasons why gyms fail

Steve Grant is a Business Coach and Founder of GymHub.com.au   Every month thousands of new trainers walk out of their 6-month course with the qualifications needed ...

Steve Grant - avatar Steve Grant

WHITE LABEL NOBA’s Winter 2016 season: Earth + Country

Taking cues from the warm winter colours of tobacco and caramel, and combining them with the strength of navy and the embracing lightness of whites and creams; and then...

Kath Rose - avatar Kath Rose

Former Etihad boss brings substantial event insight to PMY Group Board

Paul Sergeant PMY Group, the architects of the digital insurgency occurring at major venues across Australia and New Zealand, are delighted to welcome 35 year even...

Annie Konieczny - avatar Annie Konieczny

More training for coffee making than property sales: REINSW

Sydney 9 May 2016. An overhaul of education and training standards for the real estate profession must take place to help prevent illegal activities, according to the Rea...

Helen Hull - avatar Helen Hull