The Perpetual Stanford CEO Study Tour is underway and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Managing Director is one of 10 CEOs selected to take part.

Perpetual Stanford CEO Study Tour

The Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (Stanford PACS) develops and shares knowledge to improve philanthropy, strengthen civil society and effect social change.

In her time at the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Managing Director Sophie Galaise has steered the company from strength to strength, with positive growth both financially and in audience numbers. Sophie says one of her aims has been working as a team to foster innovation and achieve good outcomes for all.

And there’s no doubt, it’s worked.

MSO is now the fourth largest employer in the Australian performing arts sector, with revenue of $35 million in 2018 – with 2019 set to be even bigger.

It’s results like these which have seen Sophie invited to participate in the prestigious Perpetual Stanford CEO Study Tour this September. The tour provides 10 Australian not-for-profit CEOs the opportunity to travel to a global centre of excellence in the field of philanthropy and social impact.

Ahead of the trip, we asked Sophie what she’s looking forward to most about studying at Stanford.

What are you hoping to learn during the tour that you can bring back to the MSO?

It’s important in the life of a Managing Director or a CEO to reflect and look at best practices, both inside and outside of our field, so we can learn from others. I don’t think I will come back the same as before, I’m hoping I will be transformed in some way. I will have had new experiences, I will have met inspiring people and I will have learned from their example. Capacity building is so important for not-for-profit organisations and I’m excited to be able to play a part in strengthening the knowledge here in Australia.

What do you bring to this tour that is different to the other nine Australian CEOs?

The theme of the study tour is, “Transforming anxiety into active leadership”, and it’s totally true. At my level, I’m paid to worry, that’s what my colleagues say. We manage risk, issues and challenges all the time. And if we are successful, we don’t drown under the stress.

Managing an orchestra is more hours than a normal CEO because we have concerts and functions every week. Over the years, I’ve had to learn how to manage my sanity, my workload, to make space for a personal life in a schedule that is extremely busy.

Either you freak out, or you find a way.

I now do yoga twice a week. It’s in my diary like another meeting – go to yoga. You need to do things for yourself so you keep the balance.

One thing I think is very important is that you’ll never be a great orchestra if you don’t find a way to work successfully with others. Team spirit is essential. I’ve seen it around the world. A professional orchestra will always perform well, but a great orchestra is the sum of the collaboration of the team behind the stage, too. Our musicians can rely on us to deliver our part so they can shine. This I think, is something I can bring. I’m very proud of this team here.

Perpetual is a leader in Australian philanthropic strategy and Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society is a global leader – how will this experience take MSO to the next step on the world stage? 

To have an incredible organisation like Perpetual back the MSO and myself is something that doesn’t come around often. There will be leaders from both North America and Australia so it’s a chance to look at global best practice. It’s a network of fantastic people, sharing opportunities, coming together to learn from amazing researchers at one of the top universities in the world. I’ll gain new knowledge and perspectives that will enable us to deliver above and beyond what we’ve delivered so far.

The other CEOs selected to attend the Perpetual Stanford CEO Study Tour are:

  • Louise Baxter from the Starlight Children’s Foundation
  • Peter King from Ronald McDonald House Charities
  • Gerard Menses from MS Queensland
  • Amanda McKenzie from the Climate Council
  • Carmelo Arto from WA’s Breast Cancer Research Centre
  • Collette Brennan from Abbotsford Convent
  • Darren Black from OzHelp,
  • Julie McDonald from The Funding Network Australia
  • Stacey Irving from the Karrkad Kanidji Trust
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