Brendan Nelson

President, Boeing Australia

Leadership - the power is in the story

Dr Brendan Nelson is president of Boeing Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific. He is the senior company leader in the Oceania region and is the chairman of the board for Boeing Australia Holdings. In this role, Dr Nelson coordinates all Boeing activities, leads government relations and directs the implementation of Boeing’s strategy to expand its local presence and grow the business. Appointed February 2020 he is based in Sydney, Australia.

Brednan is also Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia (AmCham), a Board Director of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, a member of the Space Industry Leaders Forum and the Business Council of Australia, and member of the Council at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

Prior to joining Boeing, Nelson served as director of the Australian War Memorial for 7 years. Prior to this, he was the Australian Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, the European Union and NATO (2010–12). Apart from overseeing a major transformation in Australia’s relationships with the European Union and NATO, Dr Nelson forged deep links with the communities of Flanders, where almost 14,000 Australians lost their lives during the First World War.

Born in Coburg, Victoria, in 1958, Dr Nelson studied at Flinders University, South Australia, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery. He worked as a medical practitioner in Hobart from 1985 to 1995. In 1993 he was elected unopposed as National President of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), becoming the youngest person ever to hold this position. He had previously served as National Vice President, and Tasmanian Branch President, of the AMA. In 1995 Dr Nelson retired as president of the AMA following his preselection as the Liberal candidate for the Sydney seat of Bradfield.

Dr Nelson was elected to the Federal Parliament of Australia in March 1996. After the 2001 election, he was promoted from parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Defence to Cabinet in the senior portfolio of Minister for Education, Science and Training. Here he drove major reforms to universities and a focus on school standards and reporting. In 2006 he was appointed Minister for Defence when troops were deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands. In November 2007 Dr Nelson was elected leader of the Liberal Party of Australia, serving as Leader of the Opposition until September 2008. The following year he retired from federal politics before taking up his ambassadorial appointment.

Key takeaways

  • The power of authentic leadership
  • Learning leadership through reflection
  • How to lead through telling your own story