Queensland Steel and Sheet CEO Cecily McGuckin

Cecily McGuckin: Female Leader Conversations

Female Leader Conversations Ebook feature,
Queensland Steel & Sheet CEO, Cecily McGuckin said, 

“Women tend to have a different leadership style to men and businesses can flourish if they give women a chance to lead.”


  • Only female CEO in the wholesale sheet and metal distribution business in Australia
  • Determined to preserve and grow her family’s legacy for future generations
  • Has driven unprecedented growth at Queensland Steel & Sheet since taking over as CEO
  • Closed her own successful construction project development business to join her family’s business Queensland Steel & Sheet and succeed her father as CEO

Cecily McGuckin climbed the corporate career ladder, working first in health, then in retail construction development for companies like Suncorp and Mirvac. Then she started her own boutique retail project management business. Her father asked her to join the family business Queensland Steel & Sheet in 2009. Cecily took on the challenge whilst running her own business. In 2017 she was appointed QSS CEO. The only female CEO in the industry.

Using her corporate nous, she has approached the role with strategic intent and reviewed all aspects of the business’s operations, driving unprecedented growth with the amazing Queensland Steel & Sheet team. Cecily’s focus is on respecting and continuing to build the business her father founded, to preserve a legacy for future generations.


How has your previous career journey helped?

Having worked in several large corporate businesses, it gave me insight into certain ideals, structure and procedures, many of which I’ve introduced to Queensland Steel & Sheet. This has provided a corporate element to our business, but not at the expense of growing our culture which is based on more traditional business and family values. As my father so crassly puts it – “it’s the important corporate stuff but without the BS”.

Not being involved in the family business straight out of university has been an advantage. I saw good and bad leadership and what governance was really needed for a business to run smoothly. I brought this experience to Queensland Steel & Sheet.

If I had come directly into the business, I would only have the same knowledge and ideas as my father. Having a different perspective to him has allowed us to develop the business in ways not possible if I didn’t have these opportunities.


How have you approached this in a male dominated industry?

Being female, I felt I needed to prove myself in this industry, but I have let my actions build my reputation. I’ve made decisions based on all the facts and always use my natural gut instincts and my emotional intelligence to guide me in my leadership style. In being aware of my strengths and honing in on these, all the changes have not only improved the business but confirmed my value as a female leader.

This has shown that I’m not just the boss’s daughter but someone who will continue the original family service values we’ve become well known for in the market.

I have certainly had my doubters along the way. My job is to prove them wrong, by supporting our team and clients. Showing them that Queensland Steel & Sheet can compete with our corporate competitors.


What perspectives do families need to be aware of?

A family business has been built on blood, sweat and tears. It’s the founder’s baby. They want the business to succeed and have selected certain family members to carry it on. Both sides need to remember two basic viewpoints during the transition period. Firstly, the founder established the business and endured the hardship and battle of its development.

The next generation has the burden of ensuring it continues to succeed whilst also proving their individual worth and placing their own mark on the business. Both sides need to understand each other’s viewpoints for the transition to work, particularly when there are conflicting ideas for the business that need to be resolved between the founder and successor.

There can only be one leader otherwise the business will falter and cause confusion for its team and customers. The previous generation must step back to allow the successor to grow and learn, with guidance and mentoring provided when required.


How did you manage this?

A plan and timeline are imperative and all relevant family members must agree on it. This gives guidance and a set of rules before the hard work begins. Everyone needs to have frank conversations on what they expect throughout this journey.

This really is a hard process to undertake. It tests personal family relationships. From my perspective, the struggle of transition to the next generation for a family business is well worth the fight. I owe it to my father to keep the family business going for the sacrifices and risks he has taken. But, it’s also my personal drive to grow an amazing business I have come to love. Also, going forward it may provide opportunities for my three boys if they desire it and if they are the right fit. Being family does not automatically mean family members should be involved if it’s not right for the business. My goal is our family business will continue to thrive for generations to come.


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Posted by Alanna Bastin-Byrne - Femeconomy Director

CEO of the house, community builder and a globetrotting nomad. Background in Marketing and Communications leadership in the UK and Australia.