Resilient Leadership Intro
Air Commodore (now Air Vice Marshal) Alan Clements, then Commandant Australian Defence Force Academy, speaking at the Defence Christians’ Dinner in 2016:
Your upbringing, those experiences you’ve had as a young man or woman, certainly shape how you think about things. If I just look at who I am – a son, brother, husband, father, man, Christian, in the military – all these things influence me in the way I think. Looking at those who were great role models in my childhood, I can remember two school teachers who were great mentors because they built you up; they didn’t just continually criticise you. Those are the types of things that shape you as a person and then shape the way you think about leadership. As a young man I didn’t go to church beyond the age of about 12, so I didn’t have a strong Christian influence early on in my life; but I did have a Dad who was compassionate and worked hard, and a Mum and a Dad who loved me for who I was. I think those things shaped me as a leader and as a person as I grew.
There wasn’t much in terms of Christian influences early on in my military career. Then, at a time when I was instructing at Point Cook, there was a young man, one of my students who I was teaching to fly. There was this calmness and confidence about him. He was a great young pilot; exceptional at what he did. In fact, every time I showed him something, he did it better than I; so it was quite embarrassing. During this time of talking to him and getting to know him as a person, he just wore his faith openly. Not through telling everybody every minute of the day, but just by the way he treated people, by the way he acted; by the way he had the confidence in himself. It was really quite inspirational at the time. Through that we struck up a very strong friendship.
I kept that friendship going and we ended up flying F-18s together. When I was appointed Commanding Officer of 77 Squadron, I selected him as the Executive Officer. During that time our friendship continued to grow and his faith was again in front of everyone; very strong and very committed. One day he told me he was talking at church that Sunday. “Would you like to come along?” It was Fathers’ Day, so I did. I realised I believed, put my hand up at the altar call, and made the move forward. It was certainly a challenging time for me, emotionally and mentally, trying to get my head around what I’d just said and done.
Unbeknownst to me, my daughter had met a Pastor’s daughter at school. Through their friendship, she and my wife Helene started attending church – a different church. This is one time I listened to my wife, and so we started attending that church in Newcastle.