ANZAC Soldiers in WWI – What Supply Chain Leaders Can Learn

How did John Monash, a Jewish son of German immigrants, become one of the greatest leaders of ANZAC forces during the First World War? And what’s its relevance to Supply Chain leaders?

Recently I finished listening to Roland Perry’s audio book on ‘Monash: The outsider who won a war’, and found it a fascinating insight into early Australian military and social history.

And it got me thinking about what it was that meant that modern day universities, freeways, suburbs, scholarship funds and monuments were dedicated to and named for John Monash.

He became very famous, and if the King of England wanted to be his mate, then there must have been something special about this West Melbourne-born bloke!

You could say that Monash was pretty smart – a civil engineer, lawyer, business and artillery officer by training and profession. These skills saw him eventually become the Commander of the Australian Corps, which, at the time, was the largest individual corps on the Western Front.

Technologically Savvy

Like great supply chain leaders today, Monash was fascinated with technology, and what it could potentially do to meet his objectives. The Tank intrigued Monash and, along with the machine gun, he used it as a new and powerful offensive weapon.

Monash, like a smart manager today, encouraged his subordinates to come up with innovative ideas. One of them was a smoke canister that could be fired from artillery, providing screening for advancing troops.

He even used his legal training and knowledge of legal patents to help that soldier get that invention patented!

Health, Welfare, Blood and Guts!

Monash recorded in his diaries seeing and hearing the agonising cries and moans of injured soldiers left for dead after many of the battles at Gallipoli. It was this that led him to demand the urgent need for post combat repatriation and emergency medical treatment.

He also strongly advocated for more nursing services for recovering soldiers, which would have been a tough gig in those days.

Nothing demoralises an Army more than poor trauma health care, and Monash realised this. And any HR professional working in the supply chain knows that Health and Welfare programs work!

Leading his People

Monash’s leadership skills were second to none, especially when it came to his troops. He valued them. He wanted them alive.

He didn’t want to waste them as dispensable shock troops, as some suggest the British Commanders used ANZAC troops as, and like the movie Gallipoli portrayed them.

He went out of his way so that his troops would be given public recognition for their wins, sacrifices and heroic deeds, as censorship, particularly in newspapers, was suffocating at that time.

And what employee doesn’t crave a manger’s public recognition for a job well done? Monash understood implicitly the positive psychological effects of this.

Planning, Forecasting and Communicating

Monash as civil engineer understood the importance of intact supply chains and the logistics of moving people.

This expertise proved invaluable on the Western front. Time spent rebuilding destroyed road and rail networks, and town infrastructures, enabled the carrying of much needed supplies and reinforcements where and when he needed them.

Monash was a meticulous planner. He used all available topographical maps, often venturing into the field to survey objectives, so his soldiers could use existing terrain to their advantage and safety.

Planning skills and forecasting are nothing new to supply chain leaders, and it’s especially effective when you let your “troops” know what’s expected and up ahead.

People, Procurement and Negotiating

One of the most important tools in the arsenal for supply chain leaders, and what Monash was exceptional at, was the ability to negotiate, schmooze and defer when necessary to his superiors and reports. Or win them over with a confident well planned strategy.

Personal Fortitude, Self-development and “sucking that gut in”.

Monash, like any great leader, didn’t magically acquire “grit” or fortitude. He worked on himself both physically and mentally.

He read. He studied those around him. He picked himself up after failures and setbacks. And he was able to overcome racial slurs and innuendos, about his religious and cultural roots used by his opponents and detractors. At one stage even the Australian prime minister had it in for him!

When John Monash died in 1931 approximately 300,000 mourners turned out to pay their respects. Given the small size of Melbourne at that time, it showed how revered this great man was.

Monash - supply chain leaders
Australian Stamp Celebrating Sir John Monash

So whilst today’s supply chain leaders may not be involved in terrible international conflicts, some of the aptitudes and skills that a great Australia demonstrated over his lifetime, could be inspiring.

You can catch up with more leadership and life and style thinking at www.productiveminds.com.au.