Around 30 members of the renowned Australian Institute of Management WA (AIM WA) received a close-up view of the Australian military’s most storied unit the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) in November, sparking comparisons between corporate management and leadership in a highly trained and effective army unit. The visit was arranged by WA DEFENCE REVIEW, SAS Historical Foundation and AIM WA.
“Based in Swanbourne, WA, the SASR is the most combat-ready unit in the Australian Army, capable of mounting at short notice missions by air, water, and land, anywhere in the world to protect and advance Australia’s interests.
Its specialised capabilities are utilised in war, in counter-terrorism and in special recovery missions and can be mounted clandestinely across the globe. At any time, it is likely there will be missions being undertaken somewhere on the planet, unbeknown to any but those with a need to know.
With its bold motto ‘Who Dares Wins’, the SASR attracts the best of soldiers but selects only those that pass extremely rigorous tests that tax their physical, psychological and cognitive resources to their limits. To qualify is itself a distinction, so it is no surprise that the Regiment’s history of involvements and successes, since inception in the post-war period, have become legendary.
AIM WA members were given a tour of the historical collection, which contains mission memorabilia, weaponry, specialised vehicles, and exhibits illustrating some unclassified techniques employed, such as for liberating an aircraft taken hostage. The variety of these techniques is striking and can include arrival at site by water, by parachute, by helicopter, by submarine, by canoe, and by motor vehicles ranging from armed open 4WD vehicles to dune buggies and off-road bikes. It is apparent there are no limitations to the creativity that may be employed to achieve mission success.
Aside from appreciating the deadly efficiency of which the SASR is capable, a visit to their base in Swanbourne, WA, is a reminder that these highly trained and effective operatives are indeed human beings. The tour group visited the Garden of Remembrance, containing the ashes of soldiers who lost their lives while on duty or in training. Not only are their memories held in great respect, but so too are those of their war dogs lost in action, whose remains occupy a corner of the Garden.
Both in their talks and in question time, it was possible to compare and contrast SASR’s approach to leadership with the ways of modern corporate management. For example, their “relentless pursuit of excellence” is reminiscent of the quality improvement ethos practised in secular management. SASR’s “primacy of operational capability” harmonises with the emphasis on the mission statement and focussing on core business.
But some SASR values are harder to find in our modern competitive organisations. When did we last hear “a sense of family” – a notion that goes well beyond mere teamwork – cited as a core value by employers? And when were “humility and humanity” urged upon us in our take-no-prisoners style of corporate competitiveness? Even SASR’s “mutual respect” becomes hard to find in an environment where one person’s downfall is another’s promotion.
“No doubt many would be surprised to find such humanity being embraced by Australia’s most lethal soldiers, while being at best acknowledged in lip service within other organisations. So, since SASR patrols quite literally live or die by their ethos, it seems there was food for thought there for the visitors.
Summing up the day, Serge DeSilva-Ranasinghe of WA DEFENCE REVIEW said he was pleased to have partnered with AIM WA to co-host a tour that was of relevance to its members.
“Serving as the inaugural event in an expanding partnership, WA DEFENCE REVIEW looks forward to working collaboratively with AIM WA to co-host future site visits and events of interest that have a focus on management and leadership and the defence industry.”