Book Review of ‘Leadership Secrets of the Australian Army’


Book Review

‘Leadership Secrets of the Australian Army’

Brigadier Nicholas Jans (Ret’d), OAM

Allen and Unwin

Sydney 2018

By Lieutenant General Peter Leahy (Ret’d), AC


When talking to the press Australian commanders are encouraged to say, “Australian forces are well trained, well equipped and well led.”  Indeed, the Australian Army is well led and this book explains how and why.

Brigadier Nicholas Jans has made leadership a lifetime study and is no stranger to how it is practiced in the Army. He served, as an artillery officer, in Vietnam and has stayed close to the Army since then as an Army leader himself and a close observer and teacher of leadership.

The key message of his book is that leadership, as practiced in the Australian Army, can and should be applied across the broader Australian community. The achievements of the Army, on global combat operations, over the last nearly 2 decades, strongly affirms our style of decision making, team building and leadership, and tells us that we have got something good going here.

As a successful consultant to many organisations, Nicholas is also well versed on how leadership works in the civil community.  He presents case studies of Army leaders who took the leadership skills they learned in the Army and applied them in their new careers to become successful business leaders.  They made a real difference and a positive contribution to the success of their businesses.  All they did was the things we take for granted and are taught and practiced at all levels of the Australian Army.

If you are in the Army you can read this book and be proud.

If you work in industry, commerce, education and the professional services you should read this book and decide how you are going to apply these “secrets” to your life and workplace.

At a time when we are deluged with theories of leadership and management from universities and airport bookshops, it is refreshing to find a practical and common-sense guide on how to make decisions, be a genuine and authentic leader and position your organisation for success.

The methods are not complicated or difficult to apply.  They make sense and are well explained in this easily digestible and astute book.  It is enormously practical and explains how and when the Australian Army’s unique style of leadership came about and why it has been so successful.

It talks of values and character, of how to build a team and be agile and flexible.  It will cause you to think about who you are as a leader and what your responsibilities to your team are.  It will teach you that leadership is not about you but about the people you lead.

The book explains how Army leaders are anything but authoritarian. They have a sense of purpose and an ethos that emphasises duty and responsibility to the team and its objectives. Their focus is on the team and as Nicholas explains, the best leaders do this by representing the best of leadership and relating to and running the team.

Everyone in the Army is a leader, with every rank required to accept responsibilities and make decisions. This means that everyone is a team player and has learnt how to make a positive contribution to the common goal.  A message for business is that if you are looking for someone to employ and want someone to make a positive contribution to your business you would do well to consider someone leaving the Army.  They joined the Army with a sense of purpose and a desire to accept a challenge, just the sort of person you want working for you.

If more people understood the nature of service and what a veteran can offer, everyone would benefit. Veterans’ post service career prospects would be improved, the stress of military service and career transition would be alleviated, and the civil community would benefit from great people doing great things.

The success of the Australian Army over more than a Century, is built on a legacy of leaders, leadership and professional development.  What is revealed in this book should not be “secrets” but should be widely exposed to individuals, companies and corporations across Australia. Australia would be a better place if these “secrets” were followed and applied more broadly.


Peter Leahy


 Disclosure: The author Nicholas Jans will donate all proceeds from this book to the charity Soldier On.  As Chairman of Soldier On I thank him for his generosity.  


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