In our latest Member spotlight, we spoke with Chris Barnes CMgr FIML, disaster management coordinator for the Moreton Bay Regional Council.
He previously served eight years in the Australian Defence Force and then 11 years in the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom. Barnes became a Fellow with IML ANZ back in 2017 and obtained the Chartered Manager recognition in 2020.
Here he shares his thoughts on leadership and the highlights of his career so far:
Q: What’s been your most significant achievement as a leader?
A: My most satisfying achievement as a leader was in my role in Townsville. I was the brigade liaison officer for the 3rd combat brigade, so the senior Air Force representative for a combat brigade of 3,000 personnel. My team was relatively small, and we were tasked to prepare the combat brigade to reach operational readiness, culminating in exercise talisman sabre in 2017. At the time was the largest example of multinational training held in Australia for a long time. So the team and I were able to support the certification of that combat brigade ready to be online for operations. That was a great team from across the Air Force and some Army colleagues who came and supported us from all different backgrounds, both male and female from all different seniorities. So we were able to achieve some great things. It was one of the most exciting and rewarding things I’ve done throughout my whole leadership history.
Q: What’s the most essential quality a leader must possess?
A: I think the most important quality for a leader is their ability to listen actively. It can save you a lot of pain if you are effective and efficient at listening actively to your team. You can leverage the collective talents of everybody to achieve the outcome you want. I think that’s an absolutely critical attribute for any leader in any industry or role.
Q: Who do you look up to the most as a leader?
A: I like Stanley McChrystal. He’s a retired United States Army General. He became famous because when he was the commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. He subsequently wrote a book called Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World. In the book, he described his leadership approach in terms of being able to focus and leverage multi-talented teams, making sure everybody is heard, and how he got to get a team back on track. He’s also been quite honest and open about his mistakes and the hubris he perhaps demonstrated, which led to his downfall. I like the fact that although he has publicly tripped over and spectacularly fell from grace, and he has actually stood back up again.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A: To constantly invest in your professional development. There’s lots of training in the military, so I was continuously developing while on that career path. I think you’d be kidding yourself if you ever think there’s no requirement for you to train because you ‘know it all’. That’s probably the first pitfall for any leader.
Q: How do you continue to grow and develop your management skills?
A: I think it’s the ability to reflect honestly on areas in which you could improve on. Then, when you’re looking at how you can improve, 99% of the time, you could figure out some training that will support your development on those areas of weakness you have identified. For example, I’ve just completed a module in systems in continuous improvement. This means I’ve demonstrated professional development and achievement in certain specific training outcomes, which I feel will benefit my workplace’s professional performance.