In 2006 when Todd Chapman, Principal for Leading Edge Management Consulting, was coaching his six-year-old son’s rugby team, he realised how much he loved seeing people develop – even kids playing rugby – and the cohesive outcome you get when you work as a team.
So after 20 years of working with QANTAS in numerous roles, Todd took the opportunity to offer his skills and energy to others, and turn a love of coaching into his own business.
In April of 2021, he launched Leading Edge Management Consulting, where Todd offers businesses lacking the resources to engage larger firms, the skills and experience of somebody who’s worked in larger corporate settings.
His goal? To transform these businesses into high-performance organisations by offering support in the areas of Strategy Design, Change Management, Systems Optimisation, Leadership Training and Executive Coaching.
“I can go in, having previously worked in a large corporate environment on complicated projects, and drive a high-quality, fit-for-purpose transformation,” he says.
“That joy I had coaching kids on the rugby field, it’s the same bell that's getting rung in my heart when it comes to coaching in a business context – taking a group of people and working through what is holding them back from being great leaders and a great team. Unlocking those characteristics and really seeing them come to life.”
So far, Todd has worked with companies in the health and aviation sectors to help them fix underlying problems and discover hidden value. It’s this creation of genuine transformation that is what Todd enjoys the most about his career.
“I help develop the leadership teams of these businesses, so that when I leave, the changes I've created and delivered are not reliant on my ongoing presence. Instead, these teams have the skills and frameworks to keep going on their own,” Todd says.
“I get a real fire in my belly seeing this process outlast my involvement and these businesses become self-sustaining. I put a lot of systems and structures in place to support ongoing performance improvement, and it's all wrapped up in developing growth leadership.”
Data and KPIs: How Todd crafted his Leading Edge
Todd says one of the foundations of his leadership transformation programs is being able to use data effectively to help clients set and achieve their goals.
“Data can unlock incredible performance through insight and leadership energy,” he says. “For example, I’m working with a client to build a Vertically Integrated Performance Management system. It has high-level KPIs at the enterprise level, but these KPIs then cascade down to lower levels of management and become simpler and more lead than lag-based.”
Another valuable tool for Todd is his ability to use storytelling to make his message more impactful.
“I once heard a great saying: people will often forget what you tell them, but they’ll never forget the way you made them feel. So, I use stories to give clients courage, potentially to trigger motivation, to unify the team or lift energy levels. I know when I get it right as I can see it in their faces and feel the energy in the room.”
Todd developed these tools, as well as many others, with the help of three AGSM @ UNSW Business School programs – the Graduate Certificate in Change Management (2002 – 2003), the MBA Executive (2003-2006) and an AGSM Emerging Leadership Program.
“Knowing how to find and use data, set the right KPIs, and gamify it so it creates energy in people and knowing how to vertically integrate it down to individual leaders are all skills that were seeded in my AGSM MBA studies,” he says.
“My passion for people-centred leadership, my use of data, my desire to support anything I do with sustainable systems and my love of great storytelling and communication all came from my AGSM teachers (faculty and students alike).”
And while Todd puts his AGSM frameworks and tools into practice at Leading Edge today, he travelled a winding route full of learning before starting his own business.
Continuing down his path of curiosity
Todd says one hallmark of good leaders is their continuing quest for knowledge. “You can’t be a good leader if you’re not perpetually curious,” he says.
“I’ve always been intensely curious about people, how they work and think, what their motivations are. But I’ve also been intrigued by systems and machines and how to repair, rejuvenate and transform them. When I look back at my career, I can see that I’ve been expanding my learning in both formal in informal ways.”
This curiosity inspired Todd to travel around Australia and Asia for a few years before starting
An Associate Degree in Aeronautics at the Sydney Institute of Business and Technology (1995-1996)
– something he wouldn’t trade for anything.
“Working on farms, boats and in not-for-profits teaches you practicalities, communication skills and empathies you can’t learn in an office,” he says.
“This part of my life gave me the ability to connect with people, which is immeasurably helpful when trying to create genuine change – especially cultural change.”
Afterwards Todd embarked on another, more formal learning journey spanning 11 years of studying, starting with a Bachelor's Degree in Aviation Safety Management at the University of Western Sydney (1998 – 2002). Much of this study took place while he worked full-time with QANTAS.
In his two decades with the “absolutely amazing” airline, which began in 2000, Todd says he naturally evolved into an internal consultant who worked driving transformation in all corners of the business. From Regionals to Jetstar and Freight to Catering. The variety was incredible and he’s highly appreciative of the experiences he enjoyed.
“My personal signature when I finished a transformation project was to leave behind a high performing team focused on delivering a common vision through aligned strategies and KPI’s. It seems counter intuitive, but my success factor was to create a level of leadership capability and maturity to the point that my involvement in the business unit was no longer required”
This evolution made him realise he wanted to venture beyond his aviation and aeronautics undergraduate degrees.
“I was starting to work on highly complex projects and I recognised that I couldn’t just trade on experience and energy forever. I needed some heavy-duty education to both broaden my capabilities and give me the ability to move at an increasingly senior level”
Staying on course
In 2002, Todd started searching for change management programs online, eventually landing on the AGSM Graduate Certificate in Change Management (GCCM).
“One reason I went with AGSM was their brand was really strong, and if I was going to invest my money into study, I wanted to feel a sense of pride in my alumni,” he says. A subject within the program called Systems for Change also intrigued him.
“The name of that course really resonated with me, as I love building systems that don’t require ongoing maintenance,” he says.
The flexibility of the online GCCM program was also key, with two young kids and a demanding job with a long commute. “It the stage of life, especially for me, is probably when a lot of people are thinking about continuing their learning,” he says.
“If you try to wait for everything to line up in that exact right moment in your career, you’ll probably be waiting until you’re about to retire.”
The four-unit GCCM helped Todd refine his approach to business transformation. “It brought structure into what I was doing – it supplemented the more instinct-led approach to transformation that I’d been using up to that point.”
Todd enjoyed the experience so much that once he completed his graduate certificate, then he jumped straight into completing his AGSM MBA (Executive) the very next semester.
Then, a few years later, he participated in a two-year bespoke AGSM Emerging Leadership Program with QANTAS through their Accelerated Learning Laboratory that featured residential courses hosted at AGSM’s Kensington campus.
The program was created by former AGSM Professor Bob Wood and attracted participation from various large corporations around Australia, who sent their junior leaders to learn from the course.
Todd has remained in close contact with his AGSM classmates, with whom he bonded through shared experiences and overcoming challenges.
“We meet for coffee and watch each other's career and personal progression on social media, cheering when there’s a win or an announcement on LinkedIn.
“I also find the AGSM brand stands out in terms of recruiting. When you see an alumni applicant you know you can count on a solid education, strong work ethic and an intellectual capacity to work in both the practical as well as the strategic.”
A lifelong learner, Todd thinks it’s important to continue to take advantage of good opportunities.
“I 100% recommend AGSM programs, as they were a game-changer in my career,” he says. “As a passionate advocate of personal development and continuous learning, I will probably return to AGSM again in the near future.
“Their programs greatly impacted the character and the style in which I go about my work, is a product of the lecturers I had and the fellow students I worked with and learned alongside, and the values that were inculcated in me at AGSM.