During November, The Cove conducted an exported Cove Conference in Townsville for a combined audience of junior leaders from 3 Brigade, 16 Brigade and the Queensland Police Service audience. The leadership group targeted was Lance Corporal (LCPL) and Corporal (CPL) (equivalent) to allow them to understand ways to 'Know Self, Know Team'. Presenters from the Australian Defence Force, Queensland Police Service and James Cook University provided expert insight on the Conference theme to allow the junior leaders to reflect on who they are and how they can develop their leadership approach.

The Non-Commissioned Officers from 5th Aviation Regiment recorded their observations of the Conference based on the following two questions:

  • What stood out during the Cove Conference and why?
  • How could this make a difference to your leadership style?

LCPL Samantha Nicholson

I gained valuable understanding to appreciate that as a newly promoted JNCO I must know myself in order to start to know my team. Knowing one’s personal values, beliefs, attributes, weaknesses and strengths plays a big part when becoming a leader. This sets the foundation for good leadership. The conference reinforced the importance of receiving negative and positive feedback from family, friends, superiors and subordinates to help to define how a leader is perceived. Being open to these views allows issues to be addressed and leadership styles developed in a way that creates value in the lives of others. On reflection, I have discovered that I do not have a particular style of leadership as I am still laying my foundation. However, I am certain the conference has made a difference to how I think as a leader by knowing my weaknesses and strengths. With the right mindset, mentors and attitudes I believe I can become a good leader for my country, my mates and the Australian Army.

CPL Stephen Winnett

Day One of the conference allowed me to focus on leading self. The high quality and knowledgeable presenters allowed the group to explore how they felt as a leader. Talking to other Army JNCOs from a variety of units allowed me to realise the differences that exist in my aviation unit. Day Two was all about leading a team. Being in the aviation field, I initially felt my leadership was governed mainly by doctrinal publications. However, group discussions in small teams allowed me to hear the ideas from other CPLs, which was beneficial. The Cove Conference provided useful information that would be of benefit to all junior leaders.

LCPL James Makins

The presentations that stood out were the sessions that caused me to reflect on myself; namely, Self-awareness, Army Spirit and What Motivates People.

Self-awareness is a skill set to understand your own strengths and weaknesses as a leader. The session discussed methods to conduct a personal evaluation and reflect on your behaviour to identify values, goals and short falls. Since doing this, I am confident that my personal beliefs fit the Army Values.

WO Ashley delivered an inspirational talk about Army Spirit and delved into his extensive career for examples to highlight the importance of leading by example and being loyal. He explained how failures in leadership or the wrong use of power does not follow the Army’s values. But he impressed that it is important to have your own values. He stressed the importance of Corporals and how they can have a positive impact to lead soldiers along the right path.

Finally, learning about what motivates people will allow me to understand my subordinates and assist them to positively contribute to the team. The session highlighted the importance of identifying a leader’s driving factors such as: interests, beliefs and values and knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses.

In conclusion, the Cove Conference has opened my mind to leadership options and has given me many tools and models to aid my future career as a JNCO.

CPL Leah Vassallo

From Day One, I recall LTCOL Colton’s clear message that encouraged people to be leaders intent on doing things better and being better. He said, 'Just be a generally good person'. For me, this has really encouraged me to think about how I treat myself and others, not only in the ADF but how can I improve and help the greater community. My change in attitude towards being a better person could help my leadership style by showing others it is okay to show compassion whilst still being able to give orders. I was impressed by WO Kevin Woods’ story about morale courage and standing up for what he believed in. This was the second time I had heard this story but this time it made me think about how many people follow the crowd. As I reflect on this attribute, I now think about how to show and encourage this with new members coming into my unit. We all have a voice and should be comfortable and confident to discuss different opinions.

Day Two was about getting to know your team and CAPT Jim Hutton spoke about getting to know your people both up and down the chain of command. This caused me to reflect on how well I know my team members and what I can do for them. Sometimes just sitting down and having a conversation with someone can make all the difference and encourage them to want to work for you and the team.

LCPL Jade Price

The Cove Conference definitely opened my eyes to a bigger picture and showed me there is much more to leading soldiers. I was impressed with the information presented and can see how it will offer me different ways to improve and develop my own leadership and self-awareness.

The presenters showed me that leadership is an ongoing cycle of learning, and by sharing life experiences other leaders can find strategies to help them. It has become obvious to me that seemingly there is no ‘right way’ to be a leader. Leadership styles depend on who you are as a person, what your role is, what your experiences have been, what your mission is and who your subordinates are both as individuals and a team.

CPL Matthew Holt

The Cove Conference provided me clarity on important leadership issues, which allowed me to realise how relevant leadership is to the Aviation capability, particularly within the maintenance field. For example, Reflective Practice is applied at the JNCO level every day; in particular, the application of the Johari Window to assess strengths and weaknesses as seen by ourselves and those around us. In addition, the honest reporting culture within aviation encourages soldiers to display moral courage to speak up when something is not right. 

Although I see Reflective Practice being applied regularly, this is an area that can be looked at closely to allow junior leaders to identify areas for self-improvement. Furthermore, 'mini AAR' style activities, can be used to gain feedback from soldiers that can assist leaders to give clearer directions and tailor their leadership to suit both their subordinates and the environment.  This will have a positive effect on work efficiency and output, morale and job satisfaction.

CPL John Smith

The Cove Conference allowed me to validate self-awareness aspects of my leadership to allow me to identify my strengths and weaknesses. It also helped me consolidate my thoughts to ensure my team sets goals and has the opportunity to achieve them. I believe in constant individual and team improvement with a vision for safe and efficient work practices. The conference reinforced the value of self-reflection as a tool to improve my leadership as my career progresses. Formal feedback is important to provide teams with honest views of their strengths and weaknesses. This forms a learning loop that feeds self-reflection and subsequent opportunities to identify gaps in skill and knowledge.

CPL John McGrath

Junior leadership training is beneficial to current and future leaders and there is a lot to take away from this specific training. I believe there are different styles of leadership that allow leaders to know team strengths and weaknesses, make a decision and take action when required. It also helps to know how to motivate people and keep morale high within the team.

The Cove Conference provided valuable opportunities to hear from experienced leaders and how they had to make tough decisions and live with their decisions. A key message for me highlighted that successful leaders take action, even when it may be the wrong decision. However, knowing the capability of their team to carry out tough decisions, these leaders are able to achieve the goal. Understanding the bigger picture allows leaders to consider the task before them, give orders and execute a plan.

CPL Renee Clark

Leadership is vital in all workplaces, especially in environments that are highly technical with high levels of inherent risk. Underpinning this, the Cove Conference stressed there is nothing more important than good leadership.

I believe JNCOs are always looking for attributes to follow and mimic in a good leader; however, at times they witness bad examples from their hierarchy. Over time, this can normalise and create a leadership climate in a unit that is not best practice. In the first instance, a person needs to understand who they are. Without knowing this, a leader will have difficulty trying to build a team. Self-reflection is a key activity everyone can do as a way to learn about themselves and how they act and react to situations and environments.

As the Greek philosopher Socrates once said, 'Know Thyself'. This statement was made over 2000 years ago and I feel it is equally relevant now as it was all those years ago.