John Karagounis has extensive executive and board experience and has worked closely with business leaders for more than 20 years. His passion for and affinity with people enables him to genuinely understand what it takes to succeed in these turbulent times, and he continues to inspire those around him by creating new pursuits and supporting brave ventures. 

The CEO Magazine: Tell us about yourself, your business and anything else you would like to mention.

John: After deferring my full-time economics degree in the late 1980s, I started my career in banking and financial services, right down the bottom of the ladder. I ended up getting promoted quickly in the financial markets, and never looked back. I did all of my tertiary studies part time while working full time. Eventually I found my niche in private banking, and ended my career on a high as a divisional head, running a private banking business.

After close to twenty years in the financial services industry, I decided to take the plunge and go out on my own, and I purchased The CEO Circle in 2008. Now I find myself in the privileged position of running Australia’s most exclusive membership organisation for captains of industry. Some eight years later, we have Circle groups operating across Australia which involve a diverse range of industry leaders. Hosting these Circle meetings, listening to, and interacting with some of the brightest minds in our country, I can’t help but think I have the best job in the world.

What makes a great leader?

Honesty, integrity, humility and authenticity. A great leader is a courageous leader, someone who doesn’t hesitate to make the hard—sometimes unpopular—decisions. They are someone with the skills, experience, and business judgement to know how to react under pressure, deal with adversity, be resilient, and make the right calls at the right time. Great leaders lead by example and are focused on their people. They see themselves as mentors and coaches; guiding, developing, equipping, and empowering their people to find solutions to problems, deal with and embrace adversity, and believe in themselves and their decisions.

Who inspires you, and why?

Nelson Mandela: He spent his life fighting for what he believed in, and never compromised on his values or beliefs. He rose above the hate, fear, and greed of apartheid, and used his authority to lead and unite the people of South Africa. Above all, Mandela had the strength to forgive those who took so much away from him. He was an incredibly selfless man who re-wrote history for so many generations of people across the world.

Why do you think the Executive of the Year Awards is an important event?

The Awards recognises Australia’s most successful, and inspirational leaders and shines a light on individuals with extraordinary talent. The positive impact this has on people, teams and organisations is immeasurable.

What three songs would we find on your favourite playlist?

  1. ‘Let’s Groove’ by Earth Wind and Fire
  2. ‘Adventure of a Lifetime’ by Coldplay
  3. ‘Blame’ (feat. John Newman) by Calvin Harris 

How would you spend your last $10?

I would spend my last $10 calling those closest to me.