I use my most important leadership lesson as a three-step reminder, enabling me to lead with a desire to improve the lives of others:
- Provide opportunity for people to have a voice
- Listen to their voice
- 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 communications 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
My most valuable leadership lesson is – BE DECISIVE – Make a decision and act. Subordinates will lose confidence and faith in leaders who are indecisive. Trust in the training and the development you have been given. Trust in yourself and your team. Most importantly learn from any mistakes and don’t make the same mistake twice.
Mission – Men – Me To modernise this one; Mission – My team – Me
Don’t be afraid of making a mistake. Mistakes provide opportunities to learn and grow. Make your mistakes in training and never make the same mistake twice.
Know your team – You have one mouth and two ears, try and use them in that ratio. Warrant Officer Class One Sean Voss
Know your own strengths & weaknesses, as a confident leader, you must remember how to follow, especially when working with the skilled members of our ADF Reserves. They are a resource that is greatly under utilised for all mission profiles. Leadership draws on the qualities of each of us as individuals, but it must also be shaped by, and be true to, Defence values. Your approach to leadership needs to allow and adjust for the situation at any particular time and place. To put it another way: Leader + Defence Values + Context = “The right leadership for the situation” Warrant Officer Class One Jamie Fields
When a Commander is given the privilege to lead, train and mentor then that Commander should practice what they preach. To follow a Commander a soldier has to have confidence in what the direction, message, intent and personal example is, and not witness behaviours that contradicts both the commanders position and places doubt in the soldiers trust. I have witnessed the immediate and lasting effect this has to teamwork, morale and overall effectiveness this has on a unit where poor behaviours from a commander are front and centre. “Toxic Leadership” is the one lesson I have endeavoured not to do or ever be witnessed to and is always at the forefront of my thought processes, decision making, interaction and leadership style I live and go by every day. Warrant Officer Class One Robert Gentles
Adaptive leadership is crucial in an unpredictable environment…why?
As a JNCO – building your experience – you will always hear through my actions, take no backward step, and effort equals reward. Whether in the compound, in the field, on operations, or on the sporting field, the harder I worked, the less I had to talk to motivate. The more fun I had doing it, the more soldiers wanted in.
As an SNCO – your experience comes to the forefront – As a Troop Sergeant along with a young Platoon Commander and Troop Leader, guiding, mentoring, motivating and leading a patrol/troop of CRV, a section of Engineers and a Platoon of infantry, along with at times, a 40 plus vehicle convoy through a highly volatile country for nine months. I learnt very quickly that your intent needs to be precise; you need to know when to be firm; know when to have compassion; and always respect yourself, your team and your enemy.
Stand Tall Stand Proud. Warrant Officer Class One Grant Gripske
To not take on every problem that is presented to you. Some tasks you will be required to deal with due to your position. However, other tasks can be solved or managed by the individual that brings them to you. As a leader you need to know what to deal with and what to delegate and guide subordinates to deal with. This will provide them with opportunities that they can learn and grow from as an individual, as well as ensuring that the organisation has depth and is not single source dependent. Warrant Officer Class One Jai Cosgrove
To lead is to listen, to be receptive and inclusive of everyone’s ideas and suggestions. Encourage people to challenge ideas while affording transparency in your responses, you are in a position where you can affect change. Warrant Officer Class One Matthew Shoemark
My most important leadership lesson. Self-reflection is what I would consider the biggest lesson I have learnt as a leader over my 34 year career.
The ability to have honest self-reflection on your performance and to always find way to improve your performance is a lesson I wish I had learnt many years ago.
Understanding self, and being honest with your own leadership abilities is critical to any leader. Warrant Officer Class One Nick Jago
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
At a PME activity with VADM Mayer, he spoke about two types of leaders: The extrovert and the introvert
The extrovert leads by luck – They love to command, they enjoy the limelight and are all voice. Whilst the introvert leads by knowledge – They have good admin and trade knowledge, they struggle to peer lead and lead generally by their rank.
Why is this important?
As leader’s we need to be both, we need to know when to apply one over the other. Basically, if you have good Character and are Competent in your field and Committed to it and its outcomes, you are on your way to being an effective leader. Warrant Officer Class One Anthony Hortle
My most important leadership lesson was to share. Share my time with my soldiers to listen to and help them, share my knowledge with them to help them learn, share my energy with them to motivate when times were tough, share my trust with them as they developed. I found no better way to demonstrate how valuable my soldiers were to me than to share all that I could. Warrant Officer Class One Rob Munro
My most valuable lesson on leadership came from reading military history provided by the Australian Army History Unit, The Campaign Series. By reading the history of how and why decisions were made, from the authors perspective, I came to realise that lessons can be learnt from history. I am now better informed to contribute up and down the chain of command from both a self-learning and historical perspective. Warrant Officer Class One Scott Mengel
On reflection over the past 40 years as an Infantry soldier my days as a JNCO section Commander, SNCO Platoon Sergeant and WO2 CSM was to be proactive and to be seen to take action at all times, to be seen standing back at such times, meant that you were hesitant or lacked command abilities/virtues and for this your career progression may have suffered.
Standing not too far back but closing my mouth and opening my ears to listen, did not really kick into gear until my second appointment as a ARA Infantry Battalion RSM, yelling and screaming at the first sign/sight of trouble does not give you all the facts to properly access a situation for an outcome.
Close mouth / Listen / Breath, Think and Remain Calm before reacting if you really need to, don’t do it for show or that you believe you need to be seen!! Warrant Officer Class One John Stonebridge
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 likeship 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
I was a young trainee soldier and I was on gun piquet. A CPL instructor slithered into the pit. He asked me if the gun was in the action condition. As I had not checked I stared at him blankly. He said, “It is better to be known in the Army as an incompetent (swear word) rather than a liar because if you have no integrity you should not be a soldier. Now answer the question?” I replied I had no idea.
I have always maintained my integrity when dealing with others as it is a keystone of leadership. Warrant Officer Class One Lindsay Goodwin
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
One of the most important leadership lessons I have learnt is to get to know your soldiers early in the year and start recording information on them to guide the PAR process. The more you record on a regular basis, will allow you to better record your soldiers’ performance when the time comes. Weekly updates in the Troop Commanders notebook will allow you the time to accurately appraise your soldiers’ performance for the entire reporting period and not just your observations over the past couple of months. Warrant Officer Class One Craig Simmich
A lesson is defined as a period of learning or teaching. Our Army journey is a constant period of both of these important elements. My most important leadership lesson is to never take for granted or underestimate your impact on soldiers’ lives. Every engagement, that may seem innocuous to us at the time, can be a pivotal moment in a soldiers career. Those interactions are vital, developing our emotional intelligence to ensure the majority of those encounters are positive is important. My Army journey of learning through failure and success has taught me that the impact my actions and words are significant to each and every soldier, always. Warrant Officer Class One John Lines
Know yourself – no one is perfect. Understand your strengths and weakness and know it’s ok to be wrong. Identify your weaknesses and work on improving them.
Learn the art of reflection – allocate time every day to pause and reflect on the day’s activities. Ask yourself; what did you achieve, what did you do well, what could you improve on and what do you need to fix.
Listen – actions speak louder than words, but words are important. A good leader will consult, question and listen. Warrant Officer Class One Trudy Casey
What I have observed over the years about leadership is that it is not about the leader it is about communication and working to build a strong team. As a leader you don’t need to be the loudest or smartest person in the room, it is important that you step back and actively listen to those around you, and understand and analyse what is being said. You need to use the diversity of the people around you and utilise the experience that you have to achieve outcomes you are seeking. Leadership is not a one size fits all approach and to be a good leader you need to have the emotional intelligence as well to be able to guide, mentor and teach those around you. Warrant Officer Class One Virginia Morris
My most important leadership lesson was the misdirection that I could lead through words without actions, by dictating not inspiring. I thought that leadership was gained through possession, which gave me an entitlement over others. I now know that I was given a responsibility. A responsibility to lead through ethical decisions, while positioning a leadership desire within the minds of future leaders. Hindsight has shown me that leadership does come with entitlement, but not over others. The entitlement of leadership is the investment of the long-term sustainability of the Defence Force. Warrant Officer Class Two Peter Francis
My most important leadership lesson is, look up, and look out. Whatever rank you are look at the rank above. Take note of all the toxic things you see and good things you observe. When you reach your next level, do not repeat the toxic elements you have witnessed but enhance the good. Look towards your own rank. Observe their leadership styles. Emulate the good parts you observe and also lean to grow and adapt. Everything is always changing.
It’s ok to be liked; even encouraged but the chain of command exists for a reason and friendship across rank groups can undermine that chain. Warrant Officer Class Two Robert Slorach
People management is a key part or professional mastery. People truly are the Army’s capability. Warrant Officer Class Two Ben Kilgour
“No one cares how much you know until they know you care”
The most important leadership lesson for me is, until you care for your soldiers, mentor their abilities and invest in their potential you will never be able to lead them. You need to know your soldiers worth and capabilities, give them opportunities to succeed and if they fail, guide them back to success without micro managing them. Warrant Officer Class Two Ben McCulkin
Throughout my career I have noticed, where there is good command relationships in our leaders, this is then reflected by their unit, sub-unit, detachments or sections. The importance of a good relationship between a Commanding Officer and their RSM, an Officer Commanding and their CSM or a Section Commander and their 2IC are all vital. These relationships help to foster a harmonious working environment both up and down the chain of command. They are generally more succinct in their approach to achieve a desired outcome or mission success. This has been illustrated by the good leaders I have had or seen throughout the duration of my 21 years of service. Warrant Officer Class Two Erin Teague-Suradi
As an IET PL SGT at ASO in 2008 the best leadership lesson that I learnt was twofold.
Firstly the absolute requirement to set and maintain standards whilst being the example to impressionable junior soldiers day in day out without exception.
Also there was a need to promote vision and innovation within a Training Establishment that ultimately positions junior soldiers for career success. Warrant Officer Class Two David Pickles
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 effected 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
The most important lesson for me is that soldiers / subordinates will do anything for you as long as you don’t stuff them around. If you forget about brownie points and be loyal to your soldiers, they will be the same back. You know you have achieved good leadership when soldiers will willingly carry out the most undesirable tasks which are outside of their comfort zone just because you have asked, not because you have threatened or pulled rank on them. Warrant Officer Class Two Trevor Thomson
On reflection of 22 years of service, a leader who leads through mission command while still being able to guide and mentor, gains the most from their junior officers and soldiers. A leader who allows junior leaders’ mission command, has set the correct organisational culture and holds their subordinates accountable through lessons learnt and instilling ADF Values. In recent times it is through these leaders differing leadership styles, Defence has gained a group of young soldiers and officers who are able to take the initiative with little supervision and guidance. Warrant Officer Class Two Adam Rankin
What I did learn and observe early was that your reputation was just as important as your leadership. Generally in our Army a course must be undertaken before one can be promoted into a leadership role. Only then will you have opportunity to lead. However, as we know through “Good Soldiering”, our people lead at every level (including private soldiers), and one does not have to necessarily wear the rank to be a leader. Through reputation, one can be recognised, followed, requested, trusted and respected through overall proven credibility and past experiences. Warrant Officer Class Two Matthew Ryan
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
Many inspirational quotes can contribute to improvement as a leader in Defence such as:
- Have a non-biased approach;
- Have effective communication;
- Learn from history;
- Have a bias for action;
- Be humble and helpful;
- "Be prepared to make the unpopular decisions;
- Align your values with the organisation;
- Focus on the team and mission;
- Find a mentor and strive for consistent development and improvement; and
- "Know your weaknesses.
But the most important one was given to me by a soldier separating after 22 years service is 'Just be a good person'. Warrant Officer Class Two James Long
The most important leadership lesson for me – a WO2 in my 22nd year of full time service – is an ongoing lesson that I continue to learn: emulate the leaders for whom I have the utmost respect, and be better than those I do not. Warrant Officer Class Two Ben Fixter
A critical and objective reflection of eight postings in eighteen years of service; the postings I have enjoyed had superior leaders creating an exceptional organisational culture through fostering ADF values. High impact leaders create a strong positive organisational culture of cooperation and collaboration. These leaders humane and ethical approach to leadership enables and empowers their subordinates and superiors alike. Though these leaders had superb character, they were trained, moulded and further developed as leaders through opportunities present in the ADF. To conclude, high impact leaders are people with potential developed overtime starting at ab initio training with continued development throughout their career. Warrant Officer Class Two Vinson Kumar
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
“The only true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing” – Socrates
It’s a good reality check to be reminded that you do not always have ‘the’ answer. Some leaders are reluctant to seek advice or assistance from others, especially subordinates. Confidence in one’s abilities isn’t a bad character trait, but you need to be self-aware enough to know your limits and when to ask for help.
Embrace a mindset of a leader who is humble enough to ask for assistance, as this makes evident to those around you that you are human. More importantly, it provides an opportunity to show that you trust those working alongside you and are open to advice. Warrant Officer Class One Michael Nolan