We must always take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

-Elie Wiessel

David Morrison, the former Australian Chief of Army has been awarded 2016 Australian of the Year.  Morrison is recognised for his commitment to gender equality, diversity and inclusion.  As Australian of the Year he will work to champion this cause on the national stage.

The award brings to mind his forthright public speech in June 2013.  His public address was strong and memorable but more than that, it was an example of courageous authenticity in leadership.

A true leader knows when to take a stand.  When to set the boundaries and clearly state what will and will not be tolerated.  David Morrison recognised that moment, took to the airwaves and delivered a resolute message to the Australian Army that echoed through the entire population.

When you watch this short clip you can’t help but be affected.


The mojo of Morrison

The style of this speech is entirely in line with the message.

 1.  In the role as Head of Army, Morrison rightly adopts rather formal language.  He is professional, strong, clear and forthright.

2.  He stares down the barrel of the lens – he does not shift positions, let his eyes wander or allow us, his audience, the opportunity to break away from the intensity of the message.

3.  A written transcript of this speech might create a dispassionate impression – the words themselves are innocuous.  However, the delivery is brimming with emotion.  We can perceive, just beneath the surface a sense of well controlled anger that he intends to harness in his mission to eradicate unacceptable behaviour.

 4.  Morrison makes it clear that this is everyone’s problem.  By-stander syndrome will not be tolerated.  “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” Again – providing nowhere to hide.

5.  This is a well crafted message.  Morrison appears on camera wearing combat dress rather than the more formal dress uniform.  Conveying the message that he himself will fight this battle.

6.  He riddles his speech with statements that are appropriately confrontational.  “If that doesn’t suit you, then get out.”

7.  Equally important is what he does not say and do.  He does not justify the behaviour in any way.  There are no excuses, no attempt to minimise the impact or imply that the perpetrators represent only a small percentage of those who serve in the army.  He does not mince words.  He does not seek popularity.

8.  He seems not to care if his words offend.  But of course he does care.  He intends to offend, to exclude anyone who turns a blind eye to this unacceptable behaviour.  He cares about the institution he represents and intends to take a unequivocal stand.  In Morrison’s final words “If you are not up to it then find something else to do.”  No room for misunderstanding.

This is a rare example of courageous authenticity that is communicated clearly.  For some further (and worthwhile viewing) consider the Australian Story piece on David Morrison as his career.  Otherwise, please take three minutes to watch the clip embedded in this post.



Congratulations and good luck for the year ahead.