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Meet our game changers: Michael McTiernan

June 25, 2019 / Pacific

Meet Michael, our game-changing Head of APAC Law Enforcement Operations based in Sydney, Australia. He brings over a decade of leadership experience behind him and a wealth of diverse career experience working in Australian Law Enforcement, where he conducted complex criminal investigations. We wanted to learn about how he has continued to learn and adapt his leadership style and how he applies it in his role at Uber today.

Q: Is there someone in your professional or personal life who embodies the idea of being a leader even though they are not formally in a leadership position?

A: A former colleague of mine springs to mind when thinking of a person who was certainly a leader yet didn’t hold a formal leadership position. He possessed a depth of experience in his field but truly embodied the idea of being a leader. He did this by demonstrating enthusiasm to share his knowledge and experience for the betterment of his team, function, and organisation. He achieved this in a way that created a positive team environment, respected individuals’ ideas and always in a respectful way. Subsequently, the respect that he generated gave him a voice that was listened to and a sphere of influence beyond what would be expected of his position.

Q: Whether on a specific project or team (personally or professionally), how do you position yourself as a leader?

A: For over a decade I have held various formal leadership positions and through this experience, I have learnt that my default position is to usually lead from the front. However, over time, I have recognised that this often doesn’t create the space for other team members to develop. So now, as a leader, I position myself in a way that attempts to create a team culture that values ideas; encourages open communication and ownership of issues; and empowers people to make decisions. Through this, I find that I can position my team members in ways that develop them into leaders by creating opportunities for them to make decisions, drive change and influence the direction of the team.

Q: How do you navigate managing up to influence someone more senior than you?

A: I recently had a conversation at work on this very topic! As a leader, I have a responsibility to create an environment that welcomes feedback from my manager, peers, and team. This is my responsibility, and I firmly believe the responsibility of all leaders. When this environment exists, ‘managing up’ becomes a normal part of the culture where feedback is given without fear of upsetting the ‘boss’. However, in reality, this environment might not exist and managing up to influence someone more senior can become a challenge. I have succeeded in navigating this challenge mostly through understanding who it is I am attempting to influence. By this, I mean gaining an understanding of their communication style, how they best ‘receive’ information, understanding their priorities and subsequently articulating a well-constructed argument that can’t be overlooked. But there comes a time when the people you are trying to influence aren’t listening and if the issue is significant enough, I then fall back on telling them how I see it. Sometimes honesty is the best policy!

Q: What does leading and/or influencing from anywhere look like in your world?

A: In my world, leadership needs to come from everywhere! My team is geographically dispersed, and I rely on everyone to take ownership of their role, represent our function both internally and externally, and influence the key people in their sphere. This approach certainly has a positive impact on individuals, our team and our broader function. It drives productivity, empowers people to make decisions, creates development opportunities and enables me to lead effectively across a diverse region. Importantly though, this empowerment of individuals creates an environment that promotes, in my view, our most important cultural norm of “we act like owners.”

Q: What advice would you give to others, who are not in a formal leadership position, on how to lead from where they are?

A: Leadership is not about what your title says! Everyone has the opportunity to be a leader, and some of the most influential figures I have seen, have never held a formal leadership position. A key skill of every good leader is the ability to bring influence! Understand your true value, engage with your team, share your experiences and ideas, while respecting those of others. Demonstrate enthusiasm for solving problems, be accountable, but most importantly always bring your authentic self.

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