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Effective leadership is at the heart of the New Zealand Defence Force.

At its most basic level, leadership is about behaviour. It's about the building of effective relationships to influence the actions of other people and enable them to contribute to our success in a professional and ethical manner.

People might think that military leadership is clear-cut. But in fact, there is no single approach or leadership style that fits the New Zealand Defence Force. 

Unlike a business leader, our leaders work in a constantly evolving military context. There are physical risks, moral challenges and psychological pressures. It means our leaders need to constantly assess the situation and environment, so that they can adjust their behaviour appropriately.

From the beginning, everyone in the New Zealand Defence Force accepts that that they have a responsibility to support their own development. This is known as ‘Lead Self’ in the New Zealand Defence Force Leadership Development system. The system progresses through Lead Teams, Lead Leaders, Lead Systems, Lead Capability, Lead Integrated Capability and Lead Organisation. This system supports the progression and transitioning of our leaders.

Our leadership development is strongly aligned with workplace experiences. Formal education, training and courses all contribute to leadership, as does personal coaching, but the development of leaders within the workplace is a strongly-embedded principle of NZDF. Our leadership skills expand when exposed to novel situations. New experiences are ingrained within the NZDF, due to the required posting cycle and rotation of military personnel.

As our people's careers progress, they are immersed in the philosophy of every person in the NZDF being a leader, and that leadership development is shared across the organisation. Our leaders never stop learning, and are constantly developing skills on the job. It's part of our culture that our leaders develop other leaders, because as personnel progress, are promoted or change roles, we must have leaders following in their footsteps.