Check out 'My Most Important Leadership Lesson' Conclusion article for all responses.

There is so much leadership experience in our Army but often it's difficult to share the best advice across the organisation. This year's Cove Challenge aims to create a collection of the best leadership advice from across Army and is conducted in partnership with the Centre for Australian Army Leadership as well as the 1st Recruit Training Battalion.

This challenge is an opportunity to reflect on your own most important leadership lesson and share it with everyone. For units, it's also a chance to conduct a small PME activity and encourage your teams to conduct some reflection.


From 4 - 15 July 22, The Cove will be publish the best submissions on Facebook, LinkedIn and our website. Already we have reached out to senior officers and soldiers received some great responses. The challenge is open to all ranks, all services, public servants, contractors, Australian Army Cadets, civilians... well, everyone really. We'd even love to hear from junior ranks about what they learnt from good leaders.

All submissions must meet the below requirements:

  • Answer the question: what was your most important leadership lesson and why?
  • Must be between 50 and 100 words in length.
  • You must attribute your name to the submission.
  • Email to with the subject line '2022 Cove Challenge'.
  • Be submitted by 5pm on 11 July 2022.


The top five officer and top five responses from Other Ranks (as judged by The Cove team) will receive a limited edition 2022 Cove Coin and merchandise pack.


Day 10 | 15 July 2022

'My most important leadership lesson is ‘People First’. This focus includes our people and their families. As an Army for the Nation, and in the Community, we must focus on recruitment and equally retention. To do this, our people must feel empowered and given the resources and time to do what is asked of them. I have found that people leave because they don’t respect their immediate supervisor or don’t feel valued. I challenge every leader to focus on genuinely caring for your people and their families as your priority; then we will achieve Army’s mission.' Major General Susan Coyle

'One of the most important leadership lessons that I have learnt during my career is to always be prepared to carry the outcome of your decisions. Complacency and a perceived requirement to always succeed can, at times, narrow our assessment of a situation and cause us to ignore or fail to consider guidance or policy. We must always maintain an awareness of the impact of our decisions, as we are rarely the person affected the most. Due to the nature of our employment, these outcomes that we must be accountable to may have seemed unthinkable, simply because we did not stop to think.' Warrant Officer Class Two Richard Mouat

'Paraphrasing The Art of Living by Epictetus, c. AD 55 – 135, leaders learn by adapting characteristics of people we admire most. Learning provides us options employing admired peoples’ manners, speech, and behaviour as our own. Epictetus writes that we all carry the seeds of greatness within us. But, in realising our own potential, we need focus points as example images of other peoples’ excellence. General Mattis extends Epictetus’s thinking, emphasising that reading enables our learning through others’ experiences, as a better way to do business, especially in our occupation where the consequences of incompetence are so final for our people.' Major General Chris Field

Day 9 | 14 July 2022

'I would have to say my most important leadership lesson would have to be a package of: fully know and understand yourself; know your people completely; listen and don’t be afraid to ask for advice. As a Junior NCO I was a bull at a gate, I needed to be first, I made mistakes because I didn’t listen or I thought I knew better. It was reinforced to me the importance of your people and a team-first focus, by understanding your teams strengths and weaknesses you will be more successful and you will retain your team, but also enable them to reach their potential and have successful careers.' Warrant Officer Grant McFarlane

'When you lead altruistically, don’t just be at work for you, be there for your soldiers first. This will positively affect their training, career and home lives. Always remember it’s not about you it’s about them. If you can show them their worth and make them feel valued then they will follow you and be loyal. I learnt this from my CO 10 years ago and it has served me well in every posting.' Major Ernest Felix

'To rely on the person and not just the rank. As leaders we have the responsibility to mentor others but also remain accountable for outcomes. Identify members in your team who hold or can develop the required skills in others, who have the time and capacity to undertake tasks, but most importantly have a mutual understanding of what right looks like. This is the essential building block in developing social capital that make teams more effective in achieving what we set out to do.' Colonel John Molnar

Day 8 | 13 July 2022

'There are good and bad mistakes when we train. It pays to know the difference, especially when conducting AARs. Good mistakes made highlight a weakness in our training – it’s your job as a leader to act on that mistake accordingly rather than just jumping down that persons throat by default.' Corporal Alex Findlay

'My most important leadership lesson learnt over a career is the realisation that our ranks, leadership positions and command appointments, neither entitle nor grant us superiority over another. Rather they entrust us with a responsibility to earn, value and respect the commitment and contribution of every individual to the collective. Of which without, they will neither follow now nor lead in the future.' Warrant Officer Class Two Cody Bradshaw

'I have realised the power of vulnerability and humility many times in my career. At first, it stung to admit mistakes or failures, but over time it became gradually easier. We learn far more from failure than we do from success; when we win, we allow the gratification of victory to wash over us and quickly move on. When we fail, we analyse, reflect and sometimes punish ourselves; through this we learn and become better. Show and share your story with others so they learn from your experience; that’s how intelligent organisations grow and evolve quickly.' Warrant Officer Class One Jason Moriarty

Day 7 | 12 July 2022

'Confidence in our people. There are many important leadership lessons that I have learnt throughout my career so choosing just one is difficult. These leadership lessons have come from some of our most junior soldiers through to our most senior officers. I have been known to be a perfectionist at times so one of the most valuable lessons was to not let my passion for excellence destroy my compassion for our soldiers. Whilst I strive for my soldiers to have confidence in my own ability, I now realise that there is more power in assisting our soldiers to have confidence in their own ability.' Warrant Officer Kim Felmingham

'A long career has taught me many things. Taking control and attracting followers is wrong. Giving control and creating leaders by trust is key. Whilst maintaining overall command, I have moved the authority to where the most up to date and relevant information is. Subordinates are encouraged not to ask for permission. I trust and enable them, I give intent - it promotes growth, confidence and establishes their leadership style. Giving them ownership of the issue encourages creative and passionate thinking. They in turn give me their intent and mitigation strategies through analytical thinking to reach the required end state.' Major Mick Bowers

'Our people are the most important part of our Army. As a result, it is essential to always be generous with the time you give to our people. Time creates space and opportunity for better communication, builds trust and lets your people know they are valued. Your time is a resource you will never get back and giving it to someone else shows how much you value them.' Colonel Andrew Deacon

Day 6 | 11 July 2022

'There is only one way to lead; and that is by example. True leadership is born out of this innate quality which to me stems from the All Blacks mantra ‘Sweep the Sheds’ – Never be too big to do the small things. Aligned with this is a leader’s ability to act with humility; don’t presume to know everything, acknowledge your mistakes, and accept that you’re going to fail, often. Lastly, drawn out of the Self-Determination Theory of human behaviour is the ability of a leader to drive autonomy in their subordinates. Leaders create better leaders.' Warrant Officer Class Two Robbie Dunlop

'Leadership is something that I believe can never be truly mastered, in fact it is something that we should always be striving to adapt and evolve. One could argue that there is more to be learnt from the poor leader than the exceptional one. I believe a good leader must have humility, be a decent human, and most importantly listen to their subordinates. A great leader will take advice, allow questions, admit when they are wrong and most importantly not be afraid to make decisions. As a leader this is arguably the toughest yet most rewarding component of command. Taking decisive actions that set the conditions for mission success.' Corporal Shane Lindgren

'Continuously learn from others, both good and bad, but ultimately be yourself. It is easy to emulate the peers and superiors you respect, but it is just as important to learn from the bad, so you will know what to do differently when you are of similar rank or position. Do not try be someone you’re not, as it will show! And you will be that poor example your soldiers will not emulate in the future.' Sergeant Patrick Brennan

Sunday | 10 July 2022

'My most important leadership lesson is a three-step reminder, enabling me to lead with a desire to improve the lives of others:

  1. Provide opportunity for people to have a voice
  2. Listen to their voice
  3. Take action

'Leaders need to know what is on the minds of their people to bring out a person’s best. This is possible when the team feels trusted, allowing for honest and constructive communication where the leader hears and cares about what is said. However, all that comes to nothing and trust is quickly lost when action is not taken by the leader.' Warrant Officer Class One Darren Murch

Saturday | 09 July 2022

'Remember you are a steward. Success is passing the torch burning a little more brightly for your successor. Your legacy will be the people you have influenced and developed. They will remember the investment you make in them that sets them up for success. Amongst our people are the individuals that will one day occupy our positions – we have a responsibility to ensure they are prepared for the challenges of the next rank. Do this by setting priorities and managing time to create a sustainable tempo in an environment where people feel safe to bring forward problems.' Brigadier Michael Say

Day 5 | 08 July 2022

'My most important leadership lesson would be accountability and responsibility, because I believe they work together. When a task or mission is given out, that person is then solely held accountable for it to be completed to the best possible standard. It is that member’s responsibility to delegate or seek the required help that allows them to perform to the highest possible standard.' Bombardier Bryson Smith

'My most important leadership lesson was to provide the space and environment for junior leaders to exercise their creativity in achieving an outcome. This includes a climate of accepting that things may go wrong, and that experiential learning often offers lessons that stay with people throughout their careers. As long as safety risks are managed, allowing mistakes to be made without people worrying that their next PAR will tank their career often yielded more effective junior leaders who then created the same type of learning environment within their own teams. Conversely, an environment intolerant of even the smallest mistake puts people under enormous pressure, and they will often avoid the pursuit of innovative ways to apply doctrine as it will not been seen to be ‘safe’ for one’s career.' Colonel Colin Lingo

'On exercise as a section commander, I had three unknown reserve members attached who were new and not fully trained. Completing orders for a task, I asked for points from the group. One of the reserves responded with an idea, which I almost intuitively began to dismiss before realising it was a better way to achieve the task. My leadership lesson was that experience is important but do not discount an idea or its source based on your perceptions or potential biases as we all look at problems differently and can all contribute based on our individual experiences and learning.' Warrant Officer Class One Sean Chainey

Day 4 | 07 July 2022

'Early on in my Defence career, I was lucky enough to work with a lieutenant who taught me that there are times where you need to be assertive and there are times where you need to be a mentor, it’s finding that balance between both that creates great leaders. This has since been a core value that I have adapted into my leadership style as an NCO. Due to this, I now strive to further develop not only myself but all others around me as you are only as good as your last team and there is no “I” in team.' Corporal Syndee Bailey

'Transformational authentic leadership, in simple terms leading by example whilst instilling subordinates and peers with a desire to maintain the standard you set. The first time in my life I truly considered someone a leader was when I realised they consistently set the standard no matter the task and motivated me to strive in order to be part of their team and work with them. It was the most important lesson for me as a leader and it is still the standard I strive to achieve.' Lieutenant Stuart Bruce

'On reflection, as a junior warfare officer I would describe my leadership style as authoritarian and pace-setting. Although I thought I was “reasonably successful”, I was undermining innovation and initiative, resulting in more work for myself and less quality of outcomes. It was not until I matured, started to listen to my sailors and ceased suppressing my empathy, did I really start to lead more effectively. Therefore, my most important leadership lesson was that I became a better leader when I started to listen to my subordinates, developed my emotional intelligence and allowed myself to have empathy for others.' RAN Captain Terry Morrison

Day 3 | 06 July 2022

'The most important lesson I have learnt from my time in Defence is to never make my subordinates do something I wouldn’t be willing to do myself. Having superiors do this to me my entire time as a Private and seeing how my peers have done this with their subordinates, it makes you come across as lazy and as someone nobody wants to work with or learn from.' Corporal Sean Hasler

'While it may be time intensive to begin with, investing in your team early, will make everything work smoother when it really matters. The greatest lesson I learnt as a subbie was “Listen. Learn. Do. Teach.” The teaching aspect solidifies the knowledge and allows your team to develop a sense of ownership over skills and problems, leading to increased productivity in the long run.' Lieutenant Tayla Garner

'In my opinion, nothing is more beneficial to improving yourself as an NCO in the ADF than getting posted to a training establishment. In my case, it was 1 RTB. I myself led quite an introverted early Army career. I knew that I wasn’t happy with my confidence and wanted to improve myself. You can start small by volunteering for extra regimental duties. I started running PT sessions for my company. This led to an increase in confidence which is one of the biggest contributors to a valued leader. I then wanted to go straight to the deep end and requested for a 1 RTB posting. The Recruit Instructor Course proved a great stepping stone, delivering lessons of each discipline to peers before moving onto recruits. Now, after 18 months and counting in a RI role I feel I have learnt more and developed myself in the all-corps environment far more than the previous six years in my primary trade role. The inter-corps relationships of the different staff members also assists in understanding all roles in the battle space and contributes to your technical/non-technical support network which may come in handy throughout your Defence career.' Corporal Alexander Wendt

Day 2 | 05 July 2022

'There are many important leadership lessons, but one of the most valuable is, ‘do what you must, not what you feel’. This is valuable in the sense of setting and maintaining standards that are consistent with Defence values. For some this may be difficult as this separates likership from leadership. It is easy to make a decision that supports your relationship with another person (this is the ‘feel’ component); however, you will need to make ethical and sometimes unpopular decisions that align to the behaviours that are expected of an Australian soldier (this is the ‘do what you must’ component).' Warrant Officer Class One Brad Bargenquast

'My most important leadership lesson was to simply get out of my own head and get on with the job. I had grappled with imposter syndrome through the early stages of command but once I took ego out of the equation and reconciled my fear of failure, all of my previous concerns showed themselves to be trivial. From that point, I was able to focus on what is important, the team, the goal, and to genuinely enjoy my career.' Captain Vincent Gray

'Don’t go looking for no. You will be expected to take the initiative, lead and make good decisions, based on mission-type orders and higher commander’s intent two levels up…if in doubt, ask yourself the following three questions about the decision you are considering:

  1. Is it in the best interests of our people, Defence and the mission?
  2. Is it legally and morally right?
  3. Am I willing to stand up and be accountable for my decision?

If you answer ‘Yes’ to all 3, don’t ask for permission…You already have it…Just do it.’ Brigadier John Carey

Day 1 | 04 July 2022

'Leadership is not defined by title, seniority nor position within a hierarchical command structure. A leader has a non-biased approach and the ability to influence, inspire and provide direction to an individual or group of people to achieve the same end state/mission. A good leader can communicate effectively both up and down the chain providing a fluid passage of information and purpose.' Bombardier Nicole Ison

'It’s not what happens, but how we respond that determines success. Like most leaders I have a bias for action so, when given a task/problem I’m tempted to dive straight-in. But, rather than act on impulse, I’ve found we get better, more enduring results when I take a minute to understand the problem, take advice, confirm what’s right and make choices about risk. This is why Army has immediate-action drills to help regain the initiative and buy time for leaders to make decisions. So as a leader, take a minute before you respond, this is when we choose who we are and what’s important.' Major General Matt Pearse


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