Thursday, November 2, 2023
Mackay and Whitsunday Life
Thirty years ago, I had a young officer in the Airforce who was both loved and respected by all of us under his command.
He rode his motorbike with us “enlisted” airmen on the weekends. He called us by our nicknames, and we called him by his. But on base he called us by our last names, and we called him “Sir”.
If we did something unsafe or were late for work more than once, he would give us a fair dinkum warning or we would be charged. We didn’t want to let him down because we knew that he would never let us down.
He once told me that leadership was hard but simple – all you must do is “empower your people and recognise their efforts”.
Fifteen years later, I was struggling with my own leadership journey as the newly appointed State Emergency Service (SES) Local Controller. I didn’t feel supported in my role or like anyone was there to help us.
I asked respected local leader Major Frank Marchetti for advice about the leadership void we were working in.
He said, “Well, if nobody is doing anything, somebody must do something. In the absence of leadership, take the lead.”
This advice got me into so much trouble, but it got so much done for our volunteers and our communities.
Over a decade ago, I appointed Jo-Ann Clout as Mackay SES Group Leader. Leadership is hard, but I never expected the load that Jo-Ann would have to carry for so long.
No plan goes to plan, but Jo-Ann’s tenure as Group Leader was certainly not standard – cyclones, floods, fires and changes in leadership. In 2018 Jo-Ann stood down temporarily and we immediately asked her to stand back up and “hold the fort”.
We were having coffee one day a couple of years ago, I think I was attempting to apologise for throwing her under such a large bus. She responded by saying “Well, as you said, in the absence of leadership, take the lead.”
At times this approach got Jo-Ann into the same trouble it did me, but she got so much done for our volunteers and communities. Jo-Ann carried a heavy load, she empowered her volunteers, recognised their efforts and led when no one else could.
Jo-Ann is stepping down and new Group Leader Warren will do great. He knows what great leadership is, because he follows a great example of it.
Cr Justin Englert
Mackay Regional Council
Jo-Ann Clout, former Mackay SES Group Leader