Dr Brendan Nelson AO

President, Boeing Australia

Visionary Leadership & Building Resilience

Dr Brendan Nelson AO 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.

Dr Nelson 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. 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.

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. 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.

In 1995 Dr Nelson was awarded the AMA’s highest honour, the Gold Medal for “Distinguished Service to Medicine and Humanity”. In recognition of his commitment to public health, he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. He is the recipient of three honorary doctorates – in 2011 from the Flinders University of South Australia; the Australian National University in 2017 and the University of South Australia in 2019. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW (2017), Rotary Paul Harris Fellow and a Sydney University John Lowenthal Medalist.

Key takeaways

  1. The effectiveness of authentic leadership
  2. Learning leadership through reflection
  3. How to lead through story telling
  4. Leadership resilience.