LEADERS SURVEY: NBN chief executive Stephen Rue and the philosophy of a champion team over a team of champions

Adrian Rauso
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Mr Rue’s background in sports administration opened his eyes to the importance of having a cohesive group of team players without big egos in order to get the job done.
Mr Rue’s background in sports administration opened his eyes to the importance of having a cohesive group of team players without big egos in order to get the job done. Credit: NBN

Stephen Rue, the boss of the organisation tasked with delivering upgrades to the National Broadband Network in a rapidly evolving digital environment, knows the value of being a team player.

“I’ve learnt that a champion team is better than a team of champions, a captain of the team has a role to play but is not more important than anyone else there,” he told The Nightly for its exclusive Leaders Survey.

Mr Rue’s background in sports administration opened his eyes to the importance of having a cohesive group of team players without big egos in order to get the job done.

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“Team building, two-way coaching – that is getting open feedback from those you are mentoring or managing - and diversity within the team are at the core of this,” the former chairman of the Melbourne Storm Rugby League Club said.

“There also needs to be a clear sense of purpose, both individually and organisationally, so everyone is pulling towards the same goal.”

The NBN is specifically designed to transfer large amounts of data through a mix of fibre-optic cable, copper phone lines, fixed wireless and satellite, representing a massive logistical effort.

The Sydney-based rugby tragic has been in the CEO role at NBN Co since September 2018 after being elevated from the chief financial officer position, which he served in from 2014.

NBN's Chief Financial Officer Stephen Rue. Picture: Jim Rice
NBN's Chief Executive Officer Stephen Rue. Jim Rice Credit: Jim Rice/Jim Rice

Prior to this he had a long and varied 17-year stint at NewsCorp, including directorships at REA Group, Foxtel, Fox Sports and Australian Associated Press, and says being on the ground is a key piece of leadership advice he’s collected over his journey.

“Spending a lot of time on the floor and on-site with our people who are rolling out the NBN upgrades is the best litmus test of how we are travelling,” he said.

Being at the coalface can pose stresses and challenges but Mr Rue’s family and two cavoodles help keep him in check.

“I’m a relatively calm individual because I always carve out some time during the day to just think by myself … I particularly like to spend time walking and after work, I enjoy getting out with the dogs to wind down,” he said.

“I’ve learnt over life that every problem has a solution, you just have to block out the negative.”

Mr Rue is overseeing the rollout of the NBN upgrades across the country at a time when the technology sector is changing at a breakneck speed with the proliferation of artificial intelligence.

However, it is a rapid change he believes we should collectively embrace.

“There’s a lot of different talk about AI and how real it is, but we are on the verge of many new applications harnessing it,” Mr Rue said.

“From things like smart homes and the way we live to our entertainment choices, there will be a lot of big changes.

“But most importantly we will see the way medical care and education is delivered change with greater accessibility.”

He says the willingness of Australia’s populace to embrace the ongoing digital revolution will itself boil down to education.

“Education about technology is so important, knowing what it is and what it entails will help people to feel comfortable with it and welcome it.”

“There will be the challenge of individuals having to recreate their skills as things change over time and education will play a large part in the success of this.

“It’s a big opportunity.”

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