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  • 35 YEARS ON

    by Mark Cooper 3 comments

Yesterday was the anniversary of 35 years since I joined the Royal Australian Navy as a Cadet idshipman. That means that it has been 35 years since people started lifting my awareness around the subject of leadership and the greater value that can be derived through “great leadership” versus average or poor leadership.

Following a 21 year career as a military officer followed by another 14 years in the Commercial Business world I believe the rules of the game remain the same. Much, much more can be derived from sharing your day, your job, your life in the company of great leaders (leaders who inspire us) vice mediocrity and yet we are often confused around the essential source or key ingredient of this inspiration?

I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to have shared a wide and varied career of having worked with some of the finest. Whether it was doing Foreign Fishing Boarding operations in the early 80’s, through International Intelligence and Peace Keeping Operations through the 90’s and finally participating in the leadership of some extraordinary Global Business Transformation initiatives in the first decade of the current millennium. During this time I have had the pleasure of being inspired by some great people and hopefully even done a little quality leadership of my own. So what do I consider to be the “x-Factor” of those people that inspire me to be a better person and
achieve better of myself every day?

There are a 100 different books in every airport bookstore with tiles professing authority on the subject matter. There are as many if not more podcasts, video broadcasts, You-tube presentations all professing to educate you on the key ingredients to great leadership and that by the time you read the book or watch the series and adopt the scripted learning’s you can also be a great leader. There are others that suggest that great leaders are born and cannot be trained and there are others that believe that it is a combination of all. So what is the answer?

So this first article leads with another person’s view on the X-Factor for great leadership according to Mark Cooper. It is what I believe separates the good leaders from the not so good or inspiring leaders. In my views while there are book shops all over the world writing about great leaders, in most cases I wouldn’t follow them. There is absolutely no-doubt that many have notable traits of great leadership but they would be a lousy leader. They might be visionary, but they wouldn’t inspire? They might have achieved greatness
through their wartime military achievement leading tens of thousands of men through battle, or they may have conquered the Business World through the achievement of revolutionary change in the way we further mankind; however in my mind that doesn’t make them a great leader.

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In my mind the real good leaders often don’t know they are great leaders. They are often quite humble personalities that use their positions of influence to better the project, people or cause they are supporting through an ability to “inspire” their audience to believe & better themselves, to want to achieve more in whatever the cause is that they are working on, with or for. The leader is working on something they believe in and want others to believe in the same. They focus on the human behaviours that need to be stimulated in order to create an environment of self belief and that anything is achievable if we put our mind, body and soul behind it. They don’t bully for outcome, they don’t abuse power for the sake of the goal, they don’t create an environment of
“fear and intimidation” with an “all cost” outcome; but rather they lead by example. They have an infectious enthusiasm for the cause they are supporting and we all want to be part of it. So in my view the starting point in any great leader is their beliefs and values. They can therefore be your local children’s teacher or U-12 Sports Coach, they can be your mother, father, sister or neighbour giving of their own time in support of
weekend charity or National or International Cause. They can equally be the great and inspiring politician, public servant, military general or Business Entrepreneur that is furthering a cause because they believe it will add to a better world. Their ego is healthy ego and about the cause and not just about themselves and how they will look and how it will reflect back upon them if it all goes pair shaped. There will be both a conscious and unconscious awareness of their motive of why they are doing what they are doing at all times but the reasons will be grounded in their personal values and general sense of

I was recently pulled up in a Team Building workshop that I was hosting when I said that we need to subordinate our own ego and desires at times to the greater good (higher cause) of the team. The sponsor said that this should not be the case as it is personal ego that ultimately drives advancement in the world and that you should not ask it to be put aside. Without interruption my story would have finished like this; “….it is important for everyone to have a little bit of ego, as with ego comes self belief, self esteem and self confidence; however it is important to keep the ego in check and focused on the cause that it is supporting. With the right balance of ego, the right values and a good sense of self awareness, anyone can evangelise anyone to achieve almost anything if their energy, enthusiasm, belief, charm, commitment, selflessness and communication of the cause is infectious enough. This is healthy ego and this can only “baseline” genuine leadership. The X-Factor of great leaders is a strength in these human behaviours.

Finally, I am reminded from my military training days that when the “going gets tough” and you think that you have nothing more to give then you are only really 30% of the way there. This has always translated to me to mean that if we are able to “tap into” the right desires and behaviours of the people we are leading (including ourselves) we can achieve another 70% from the current input whatever that means. If you don’t believe that you haven’t travelled to enough 3rd world countries and witnessed what the “human Spirit” can achieve in adversity. Furthermore, if you have, maybe you should look at the leadership that lies behind many of these situations to find some well hidden X-factor”?

Therefore, 35 years into my career path and 51 years into my mortal life the X-factor into Brilliant Leadership does include all of the normal ingredients such as Vision, Communications, Inspiration and the other 10 Commandments professed in all of your leadership books; however the leaders that best serve the title and inspire us as individuals and as mankind to “be all we can be” are often found in the less assuming when the “going is really tough”! Start with the values add a little self awareness and you have the final 2 herbs & spices.

Against this prescription, was Steve Jobs really a great Leader or simply a brilliant Visionary?

Interested in attending a commercial Leadership Course? – “Developing Future Business Leaders”


Author Bio

  • Mark Cooper

    I just wanted to pass back some feedback on the Future Leaders training course.. It was the most inspiring and self-informing training that I have ever completed, it allowed me to take the time to understand my values, how I can and want to exhibit leadership as well as refocusing and defining my career, and in a way life objectives. I'd like to say thank you for giving me the opportunity, and I would highly recommend other leaders within the organisation participate in this course.


  • Mark Cooper says:

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