Our People

James McLaren

James is the Founder and Managing Partner of Sterling Black. Previously, he was Managing Partner at Deloitte Leadership Consulting and prior to that was Managing Director, PDI (Korn Ferry Hay Group) based in New York).


With more than 25 years of experience, James specialises in assessment, feedback, coaching and development of Chairs and CEOs.


He focuses on review of Board Effectiveness, Chair Feedback and Director Development; CEO and C-Suite Assessment for Selection, Development and Succession; CEO Succession, CEO Coaching and Development; Executive Team Effectiveness.


Based in Australia, he has worked extensively in Europe, North America and Asia. He works closely with international clients and local clients large and small across all industries.


James holds a Master’s in Business Administration degree from Columbia Business School and an MBA from London Business School. He also holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree and is accredited in all credible leadership psychometric and ability measures.


Listen to James on the Future Women Leadership Series podcast – ‘Can Anyone Be A CEO?

Jessica Apfel

Jessica has fifteen years of experience in the leadership industry working with boutique advisory firms and Heidrick & Struggles. Her career has specialised in CEO and C-Suite succession and development to help organisations achieve results.


Jessica works closely with Chairs and CEOs to provide insightful assessment data for selection, succession, development planning advice and guidance for organisational effectiveness. She facilitates executive team workshops and coaches’ leaders who are transitioning into new roles.


Her clients have included KPMG, Westpac, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Commonwealth Bank, Aurizon, Aristocrat, NIB and Wattyl.


Jessica holds a master’s in business administration from MGSM. She also holds a Bachelor of Human Resources (Psychology & Business) from Macquarie University and is a Justice of the Peace, NSW.


Jessica is accredited in a range of psychological instruments including Hogan Assessments, Wave Profiling, GLWS and the Results-Based Coaching method, which is based on the latest neuroscience techniques.

Paul Collings

Paul is a highly experienced leadership consultant with over fifteen years of experience working with his own clients. He focuses on improving culture, team effectiveness and leadership.


Previously, he was a Principal at McKinsey to be part of the team that developed the firm’s approach to culture and leadership. Prior to that he was a business strategy consultant with Pappas Carter Evans & Koop (later BCG) and Australian Consulting Partners (founding partner).


Paul holds a Masters in Business Administration degree from AGSM. He also holds a Bachelor of Economics degree and is accredited in The Leadership Circle, NeuroColor, Human Synergistics, Barrett Values Survey.

Lucy Liddle

Lucy is a Project Manager with Sterling Black. She has experience managing all facets of project management across leadership development and executive search projects. For over a decade she has worked with Chairs, CEOs and their assistants to ensure consistent and seamless delivery across a range of solutions.


Lucy specialises in projects that involve 360-degree assessments, feedback and coaching at the most senior levels of the organisation. Her clients have included KPMG, Aurizon and BHP Billiton.


Lucy is passionate about first-class client service and has a particular strength in relationship management. She is accustomed with all credible leadership psychometric and ability measures.