Talking courage with a CEO

(3 minute read plus ~3 minute video)


Although Anthony Hengel has an Engineering background, his career has navigated through a variety of operational, technical, financial, sales and general management roles. His career has been between the packaging and automotive industries with time at both GM Holden and Amcor/Orora before joining NCI Packaging as CEO in 2016.  


How would you describe workplace courage?

Workplace courage can come in a variety of different forms:

  • Creating a bold new environment by breaking and challenging cultural norms
  • Disseminating power and decision making to create new ways of working and thinking
  • Challenging leaders and ultimately the current state to go in a different or new direction.

At the heart of all these, is an element of risk taking, while at the same time going against convention.  Going against convention is about doing the unexpected.  For example, while there may be agreed decision-making processes, you might challenge these processes; it is about continuous review. Going against convention might be about challenging the unwritten rules that influence the culture of an organisation.

Courage to me is not just about taking some commercial risk but rather has a much deeper behavioural element; there is more risk to the individual than the organisation.

What does courage look like in your workplace?

We are a business that is evolving. I would love for us to get to a space where the notion of workplace courage seems strange. By this, I mean it is an environment where challenging conventions is accepted and doesn’t involve risk at all.

We are working to becoming a more agile business where we focus on collaborating across the business as normal. So that both working with different people, and evolving and changing, is just what we do. With that, the notion of risk taking actually reduces and the need for courageous acts reduces.

As leaders we have the opportunity to frame the environment and in particular the consequences of taking calculated risks. As leaders it is up to us to explain the “why” and then enable others to make the decisions and take action that support our organisational values and business direction. If we reward and encourage this behaviour it no longer is courageous but rather the norm.

Please describe 1or 2 examples of times in which you have been courageous.  What did you do?  Who/what enabled you to be courageous?  What was the outcome?  

I certainly remember an instance, when I was new in a significant leadership role where I had to call a much more senior leader on his behaviour.  He was overly aggressive to a group of team members about their performance and didn’t fully understand the facts.  I had to halt the meeting and spoke with him outside the room.  He apologised to the group which was not something he had to do.

What enabled me to be courageous is a strong value set and a fairly thick skin.

I also couldn’t let this leader break a team apart that I was trying to pull together.  By standing up, it enabled us to keep a focus on behaviour which was at the core of what our team was trying to achieve.

From your point of view, to what extent are Australia’s leaders leading with courage?


For me leading with courage as an Australian leader is more about what you give up than what you hang on to. What if Goliath had said to David, “We don’t need to fight about this?” Might this have been more courageous?

It is not about challenging norms and conventions every day. If you have to do that, there is either a significant issue in the business or a disconnect between your values and the values of the business.

I don’t see it as being a courageous leader per say, but I do see leadership as creating an environment where everyone can achieve their best, both for themselves and the business. Everyone needs to be able to grow together with the business with all parties benefitting. I see the leadership element as creating the environment where the notion of courage is actually not needed. Is that in itself courageous leadership, I’m not sure, I’ll leave that to others to decide.

Learn more about NCI Packaging’s Aspiration, Purpose and Values in this short video:


In working with Anthony, it is extremely clear that he has a strong set of personal values which provide clear guidance and direction for him.  This is evidenced in his words and actions.  His commitment to building strong, inclusive, empowered cultures in organisations, and his passion for enabling others to be the best they can be, is outstanding.


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