By James Wells

MAUI: General Peter Cosgrove answered the call from a former member of the 9th Battalion to present the opening speech at the Narta conference in Maui this morning on leadership, morale and motivation.

Cosgrove agreed to address the Narta conference on following a request on Anzac Day from fellow 9th Batallion member and close friend – NEC Electronics general manager, Charles Carter.

Cosgrove, the Australian of the Year in 2001, told several stories about his time managing the defence forces where he had 12 different command jobs which ranged from managing 30 people through to 71,000 people.

“Each of those jobs were different in the roles and goals, structure and skillsets,” he said,

“You know I will always speak kindly of the men and women of the defence force, but it also has the good, the bad and the ugly – people of huge talent, frailty and occasional poor behaviour.

“Morale comes down to motivation and our fundamental motivation a lot of the time was ‘let’s not die in this place so we can get home to see our friends and family’.

“In commerce, there is the same fundamental – let’s survive and not go broke and let’s not lose our jobs."

Cosgrove told other stories including one time in Vietnam when he was waist high in grass and short of ammunition and he realised he was exposed with tracer fire scattering around him.

Shortly afterwards he was joined by a member of his unit which Cosgrove said demonstrated pride, loyalty and affection for his superior as well as the effort displayed by a team.

Cosgrove also made the point that to motivate those working for you or beneath you that an understanding of their working conditions and their environment provided an opportunity to earn their trust and display empathy.

One of the major points Cosgrove made was that tough goals, whether in the defence forces or in business were only accomplished by the best

“I would always articulate in advance that it was a tough goal, and that this goal can only be achieved by supreme professionals.”

Cosgrove also said that his attitude to other people was always irredeemably positive and he was always a straight-shooter when it came to dealing with the media or other external departments such as the government.

He recommended that leaders demonstrate that they are able to take responsibility for the positive outcomes as well as the failed outcomes.

“Take responsibility for the failings and well as succeeding. If there is a problem it is important that you take a share of the blame that they know that the boss takes responsibility.

“Praise loudly and criticise quietly. You need to be there when people need you.”

To conclude his presentation, Cosgrove summarised his philosophy in two sentences with a question and an answer.

“How do you enlist, mobilise and inspire people to do difficult things in an outstanding way while meeting daunting roles?

“By being the person they wish to emulate and please and creating a successful team where underachievement is unthinkable.”