Empower your people: Sir Angus

Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston AK, AFC (Ret’d) says the highlight of his career was the people who supported him, particularly in his roles of Chief of Air Force and Chief of the Defence Force.

Sir Angus, was awarded a Knight of the Order of Australia in January 2015 for his continued commitment to serve the nation in leadership roles, particularly the national responses to the MH370 and MH17 disasters and distinguished service in the Australian Defence Force.

Hear from Sir Angus at the CCI Lighthouse Leadership lunch on 15 June at the Reveley Room, Perth Arena.

Despite retiring from the Defence Force in 2011 after 41 years’ service, Sir Angus says he is involved in a whole range of activities that keep him busy including as patron of a number of charitable organisations and as the new Chancellor for the University of the Sunshine Coast.

“I am more relaxed now than when I was Chief of the Defence Force,” he says.

Recognised for his sincerity and humanity when faced with the most difficult of circumstances – such as appearing in the media after the deaths of serving Australian soldiers – Sir Angus says maintaining composure when faced with traumatic human circumstances was all part of the challenge of leadership.

“When things go tragically wrong you must always look after the affected people,” he says.

“I was deeply affected by our losses.”

Leading by example was imperative to motivating those under his command when faced with tragic situations, he says.

“Our people are professional, loyal and dedicated.  In these circumstances, leadership by example was key.”

Sir Angus says his leadership and crisis management experience, particularly as Chief of the Defence Force, was excellent preparation for the challenges of leading Australia’s response to two of the world’s most devastating airline disasters.

This included heading up the Joint Agency Coordination Centre based in Perth that coordinated the Australian Government’s support for the search for MH370, which vanished in March 2014 after leaving Kuala Lumpur International Airport and became one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries with the plane and bodies of 239 passengers and crew never found.

Just four months later, Houston led the national response to the MH17 disaster, which saw the passenger jet shot down over the Ukraine killing 283 passengers and 15 crew.

Lessons learnt along Houston’s extraordinary career path as a leader include being values based and leading by example.

“Work hard to the welfare of your people and empower them,” he says.

Houston’s top five leaderships tips

  1. Provide direction in the form of a ‘vision’ or an ‘intent’.
  2. Establish and maintain the right culture to achieve the mission.
  3. Lead by example of the basis of values and empowerment.
  4. Communicate personally and authentically.
  5. Engage to create constructive and trusting relationships.


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