Mark Rigotti MAICD succeeds Angus Armour FAICD this month as AICD CEO and managing director. He comes to the role having recently retired as a partner from law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, where he held senior leadership roles, most notably as global CEO 2014–20. He reflects on his career, Angus’ legacy and his ambitions for the AICD’s future.

    Servant leadership

    I was born and bred in Sydney, growing up in a family that was very involved in the community. The servant leadership model, where the most effective leaders strive to serve their stakeholders, is something I’m very familiar with and passionate about. The model formed the foundation of my leadership career and my various pro bono and community interests.

    I married my wife, Mary Jo, in 1992, and we have two children, both adopted from South Korea. I started at Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) back in 1998, which now feels a bit like a Star Wars movie — a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. I was very fortunate to have a number of different leadership roles at HSF over the years, where I learned about fast growth, complex restructuring, and how fundamental collaboration is to strong performance. Ultimately, I ended up becoming global CEO, working in London.

    Practising director

    I am the chair of Redkite, a national charity for families who have a child with cancer. It is hugely satisfying being involved with such important work supporting families at their most difficult time. I’m also on the board of the European Australian Business Council, which focuses on trade and investment between Australia and the EU.

    Three things make me passionate about being a director. The first is intellectual interest in solving problems, similar to when I advised clients on difficult problems as a lawyer. The second is around an opportunity to improve the organisations I work with. I’m not really a steady state sort of person. The third is the opportunity to develop people. As a director, you get the opportunity to develop your CEO and work on the overall development of people through the organisation.

    Angus Armour’s legacy

    In his time as CEO, Angus’ accomplishments are numerous and immense. I would zero in on three. First, he led the organisation — its people and its members — through an extraordinarily difficult time over the past two years through COVID-19. Second, he has significantly developed the internal culture of the AICD with a strong bedrock of resilience and a clear sense of purpose. He leaves it a much healthier organisation. Third, he initiated the digital transformation journey the AICD is on, setting the AICD up for a successful future.

    Challenges and opportunities

    Building back after COVID-19 is both a challenge and an opportunity. We have an opportunity now to build stronger organisations. The pandemic disruption has accelerated digital transformation and more flexible working arrangements. But creating value for shareholders and stakeholders in this environment can still be hard, largely due to the heavy burden directors carry under the Australian regulatory regime.

    Taking the reins

    This is an iconic organisation with a clear ambition to continue improving. That’s come through very clearly from my conversations with the board, members and staff.

    I have a commercial background, and being able to use my skills to grow the AICD offerings is very energising. I’m also motivated through the Governance & Policy Leadership team to influence and improve the legislative and regulatory environment that applies to directors.

    I feel proud of all the recent achievements of the AICD community, realistic about the current challenges directors face in this complex environment, and optimistic about the transformation and growth pathway the institute is on. I look forward to meeting with members and staff in coming months to hear about their aspirations for the AICD.

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