Inbox: Growing business leaders in the military

A number of successful New Zealand business leaders had former careers in the military.
David McGregor carved out formidable career as public law specialist and recently retired as the senior partner of leading law firm Bell Gully. He puts much of his success down to the management and leadership skills he acquired through the New Zealand Defence Forces.
As chairman of Auckland and Northern Territorial Forces Employer Support Council, he co-hosted an event in March with the AUT Business School, to recognise the contribution of transferable leadership skills between commerce and the New Zealand Defence Force.
McGregor was conscripted under the compulsory birthday ballot system into the Forces at the age of 18. He applied for the Officer Training Unit and on graduating as 2nd lieutenant, his first command was Kaitaia, Northland where as young man he found himself in charge of 30 lads from the Morewa freezing works. This was ‘man management’ baptism by fire for McGregor.
Later as brigadier in the Territorial Forces he spent more time in Wellington. “I gained huge understanding of the political environment the Forces worked within and learnt the ins and outs of Wellington’s political landscape,” describes McGregor of the value his experiences in the Forces provided in developing specialisation in public law at Bell Gully.
The Forces are increasingly focused on integrating career development with the private sector. The changes will provide more flexibility so that recruit can undergo initial training then serve for period of time before being seconded into private sector organisations such as Fletcher Building. In future, career with the forces will fast track those wishing to pursue senior management roles in private sector corporate environments.
At the event, The Minister of Defence, Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman, presented the Regional Reservist Employer Gold Award to the NZ Customs Department for their support of lance corporal Mike Brown in continuing his role as reservist. “There is growing awareness of the importance of our Defence Force personnel mixing with business. This cross pollination will help ensure skills in the Defence Force are directly transferable to the working world outside the military,” the Minister said.
Dr Geoff Perry, dean of the AUT Business School, noted the depth of relationship between the Business School and the Forces through the provision of management education. He sees the potential to expand on the existing relationship between the Defence Force and the university.
Sarah Trotman, director of relations at the AUT Business School, spent five years in the Territorial Forces. Going on to lead national organisation at young age then starting her own business contributed to her receiving Sir Peter Blake Trust Blake Leader Award. Now trustee of the Sir Peter Blake Trust, she is clear on the leadership qualities that the Forces instil. “Leadership is quality that is difficult to develop through traditional training. It’s an innate ability that often needs to be brought out in real life situations. The Forces gave me great head start in honing my leadership abilities.”
The AUT Business School runs Shadow Leader, programme that gives students the opportunity to experience the real life environments of some of New Zealand’s greatest business leaders. Trotman advises that the Business School is including senior member of the New Zealand Defence Force in the Shadow Leader programme this year. M

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