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Military vs Civilian Leadership

In this short, (incredibly poor quality) clip, we see me handing over the ‘Corps of Officer Cadets’ to Andrew Hawke, the Academy Cadet Captain. As 20 year olds, this was the start of our final year of leadership training at the Australian Defence Force Academy. But, as I’m sure Andrew would agree, we were just getting started in our journey as leaders. For me, this was only the beginning of decades of highs and lows, screw-ups and some minor successes too. (Little did I know, but the first of these screw-ups would happen only six months later…involving a motorcycle, a girl, and a third year maths unit.)

The military has always done things a bit differently. They train new employees as leaders FIRST…long before they allow us to get near the exciting hardware (in my case, very fast aeroplanes, in Andrew’s case, billion dollar warships).

The corporate world does things differently. Companies recruit based on technical skill, relevant experience and academic records. Then, if employees perform well, or at least ‘do their time’, they are promoted and are expected to lead teams for the remainder of their working life. Their future successes will largely be based on the success of the team they lead; their ability to engage, motivate and positively influence a group of people like you and me.

Although the military has produced its fair share of very average leaders, it does at least present ‘leadership’ as a profession it its own right. Leadership is a lifelong journey of education, trial and error and practical experience, and there is nothing that has the same impact on workplaces. Your business may have the best systems, the highest quality people and a favourable market, but without quality leaders, mediocre is probably the best outcome.

Leadership is agnostic. The same techniques Toto Wolff uses at the helm of the Mercedes F1 team will work just as well on a nuclear submarine, in a hedge fund or at your fintech startup. The leadership I was taught at the Australian Defence Force Academy is the same leadership that works on the flight deck of the airliners I fly, and will work in your organisation.

Beginning in May this year, I will host ‘Plus Minus Zero’; a three month leadership masterclass designed to help leaders build exceptional operating environments. Based around two 90 minute webinars per month, plus optional coaching and on-call mentoring, Plus Minus Zero will include the best of what I have learnt in my 3 decades of leading.

To ensure maximum value for Plus Minus Zero participants, numbers are strictly limited to 15. To find out more information, please contact me at, or by registering your interest at the link below.

Happy Friday, and hope to connect with you soon!

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