Manager evolves to leader

Posted August 24, 2015


Peter Sharpe, South32 asset president

Peter Sharpe is quick to nominate the people he has met and the places he has experienced as the highlights of a 16-year mining career.

Mr Sharpe was appointed as asset president at Cannington mine in north-west Queensland in February, leading that operation through the BHP Billiton demerger that has seen it become part of the South32 stable.

Previous roles include NSW Energy Coal asset president for BHP Billiton, Colombia Coal vice-president as well as various technical, operational and management roles at Goonyella Riverside and Saraji mines in central Queensland.

“I was a bit late into the mining industry,” Mr Sharpe said.

“I’m a civil engineer so I spent my first five or so years building roads and dams and 16 years ago moved to central Queensland with my wife and one-year-old daughter.”

He said the family had travelled from New South Wales with their limited belongings in a small box trailer to start a new life – and from there things had gone “absolutely fantastic”.

“We had six and a half years in Moranbah, four and a half years in Dysart … that was back before it got really crazy with the mining boom,” Mr Sharpe said.

“We just met some magnificent people. They were great communities to live in and we’ve really made life-long friends.”

He said he had also appreciated the chance to take his family to Houston in the United States for his Colombia Coal role before returning to the Hunter Valley, close to he and wife Stacey’s family, with children Emma, 17 and Jacob, 13.

Mr Sharpe is now based in Townsville and said he was enjoying both coastal North Queensland and the North West.

“It’s a great environment in this area,” he said.

“I’ve been asked to go out mustering at one of the properties and I’m absolutely keen to do that. I come from the country and this is a bit like coming home to be honest.”

When asked about leadership, Mr Sharpe said he believed there was a real distinction between being a manager and being a leader.

“If I reflect on my career, in the early management period it was really about knowing all the answers and being able to be the one who can tell people what needs to be done and have really strong oversight,” he said.

“When you evolve into a leader you actually accept that you don’t know all the answers, but I think you ensure that the team around you does have the answers.”

For him the key to leadership was setting fundamental directions for the work team, providing guidance on what was expected and then doing everything possible to help people be successful, Mr Sharpe said.

“I know it sounds simple, but really I think that’s as hard as it needs to be,” he said.

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