Nelson’s legacy for our NEXT generation leaders

Published on MIDN Mairé Starkey (author), AB Nadia Monteith (photographer)

Topic(s): Admiral Nelson Sword of Excellence, Leadership, Next Generation Navy

Then Lieutenant Commander Kerry Rohrsheim addresses quests upon receiving the Lord Nelson Sword of Excellence in 2009. (photo: Able Seaman Nadia Montetih)
Then Lieutenant Commander Kerry Rohrsheim addresses quests upon receiving the Lord Nelson Sword of Excellence in 2009.

Famed for his stunning victory over the combined Spanish and French Fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson’s legacy remains strongly connected to today’s Royal Australian Navy.

Naval historian Lieutenant Commander Desmond Woods noted in his speech ‘Humanity after Victory’, that Nelson’s victories at sea “secured Britain’s predominance in the world and Australia’s future as a self-governing member of a largely peaceful empire”.

In homage to Admiral Nelson, the Nelson Society of Australia instituted the ‘Admiral Nelson Sword of Excellence’ in 2006 to encourage qualities of leadership excellence in the Royal Australian Navy.

The Sword was first awarded to Commodore Justin Jones and acknowledged his leadership while serving as Executive Officer in HMAS Parramatta from 2005-2006.

“It was and remains a humbling experience, and has since given me a small platform on which to teach and mentor,” Commodore Jones said.

The Sword has since been awarded annually to an Officer who demonstrates outstanding leadership in a seagoing posting.

Nelson’s fleet of commanding officers, his famous ‘Band of Brothers’, were bonded into a winning fighting force through coordinated action, empowered common purpose and a strong national culture. Fast forward 215 years and these tenets all feature in the underpinning principles of ‘NEXT Generation Navy’.

“NEXT Generation Navy’s culture pillar of ‘Develop Leaders who Value their Teams’ is supported by the recognition of our people’s achievements through awards such as the Lord Nelson Sword of Excellence,” Deputy Director NEXT Generation Navy, Commander Tina Brown said.

“While the award recognises leadership excellence, it also inspires all officers to enhance our fighting force through mentoring, investment and empowerment.”

Reflecting on Nelson’s famous signal ‘England expects every man will do his duty’, 2009 recipient Commander Kerry Rohrsheim believes that the best outcomes are obtained by “creating an environment in which the team feels empowered to contribute to successful outcomes”.

“Our people require guidance and encouragement, not micro-management,” Commander Rohrsheim said.

While Nelson’s sentiment has been contemporised, his personal example of courage, inclusivity, and trust of subordinates are traditions of his leadership that guide the values and culture of Naval Officers to this day.

The call for nominations for the 2020 award of the Admiral Nelson Sword of Excellence will open on 1 June 2020 and close on 28 June 2020.