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Kokoda – 4 Powerful Lessons in Leadership

May 19 2018

I have just survived walking the tough Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea with my son Zac.


In amongst the mud, jungle, rain and constantly wet feet – there were some magic Leadership learning experiences.

Why were the lessons in walking Kokoda powerful?


Here’s 4 powerful leadership lessons based on 4 values that clearly articulate the ANZAC spirit in warfare.

Each value a powerful and relevant lesson even in today’s society.


1. Courage – Having the guts to think differently. Even the untrained Aussies that faced the highly trained Japanese essentially stopped the raiders onslaught due to their courage and ability to fight against the odds. Today’s business needs the same courage. Courage to think differently. Courage to take risks. Courage to take people into unknown territory.


2. Endurance – Being there for the long haul. The 39th Battalion were outnumbered at times 6 to 1. They could have given up earlier in the battle but they passionately believed that hanging in there to get the job done was the only way. It took them nearly 9 months – but they stuck to the task of defeating the Japanese. In business, there is strength to be gained if we have an attitude of overcoming. As a leader, do we remind our people the reason why we appreciate their contribution and loyalty. 


3. Sacrifice – It was the heroes of Kokoda, like Sam Templeton or Bruce Kingsbury that inspired the often tired and despondent soldiers. Those that put their own lives on the line. How powerful would that be if workers in your business could turn their behaviours from self-serving into other-serving. In fact, the real function of a leader is ‘to serve others’


4. Mateship – Without mateship so many more Aussies would have died at Kokoda. There was a fearless mateship that ensured soldiers were always looking after each other. This in fact is the common factor in high performing teams – those in which collaboration becomes the glue that powers teams to success. Mateship is also about being honest with each other – no BS!


Imagine if you could instil these 4 basic but powerful values into your workplace.


Values can be a very powerful way to build strong fibre in any team. It starts with a discussion.


I challenge you as a leader to start a discussion with your team about business values. What do they mean to your team? What are the acceptable or unacceptable behaviours?