Lieutenant shows values based leadership under fire

I’m sure readers would have seen or heard of the recent issues within the Australian Defence Force around the behaviour of a group of men towards women and the video message from Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO 1. Many commentators were impressed with the leadership he demonstrated in addressing, publicly, a cultural and systemic issue within the army.

I was also impressed with his media appearances in which he revealed the same level of forthrightness, courage and honesty. These are attributes which make for great leadership. And he was comfortable in delivering his message. As much as the subject matter distressed him, he still gave the impression of a person who was certain of what he was doing and saying. He was authentic in who he was and what he said.

But of course we are all different and “leadership has many voices. You need to be who you are, not try to emulate somebody else” 2 and that was what struck me most about Morrison’s public appearances; his self-awareness and his authenticity.

There is an excellent article in the Harvard Business Review of February 2007 2 titled “Discovering your Authentic Leadership” in which a number of questions are posed which seek to understand the elements of an authentic leader. They include:

  • What are your most deeply held values and how do your values inform your actions?
  • Are you the same person in all aspects of your life?
  • What are the people and experiences in your life that make you who you are today?
  • Do you have a support team around you which makes you a more authentic leader?

I find the last question the most challenging. As leaders, are we prepared to build a team around us which challenges us and tests our authenticity? Doing that means the road can be a little rough at times, but such a process ensures our values are tested and values need to be, if, as leaders, or indeed as a Movement, we wish to profess to strong values based leadership.

In the Y that team can come in the form of peers, a management team, or a Board. In my case I can add the National Leadership Team (NLT) and the CEOs around the YMCA Movement in Australia who contribute and support the Movement and myself in my role as CEO.

Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO, gave us a lesson in values based leadership and showed courage under fire by saying that an organisation, of which he has been a member for over 30 years, wasn’t up to scratch. Morrison well and truly took responsibility, but behind him, I’ve no doubt, there was a support team and perhaps in that respect, the credit for this incisive, courageous piece of leadership, can be shared.

Have your values as a leader been tested, and how have you responded?

  1. Youtube video
  2.  Harvard Business Review of February 2007 “Discovering your Authentic Leadership”
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