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Along the Way – Soldier, Battlefield Commander, Diplomat, Teacher, and Corporate Leader
Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie AC DSC CSM retired as Chief of Australia’s Army in July 2011. This marked the end of an amazing 43 year career. In 1968, then 16 years old, Ken Gillespie joined the Australian Army as an apprentice bricklayer. The career that followed now must rate as one of the most amazing stories of workplace success in the modern era.
The military identified Gillespie as a potential leader at an early stage and he was sent to the Officer Cadet School at Portsea. He went on to graduate as a young officer in 1972 and was commissioned into the corps of the Royal Australian Engineers.
In the years that immediately followed Gillespie held a range of regimental and staff appointments where he performed a number of instructional, administrative and leadership functions, mainly associated with military engineering. During 1986 and 1987 he was the Australian Exchange Instructor at the Royal School of Military Engineering in the United Kingdom.
In 1989 he raised, and then deployed as the second in command of the 2nd Australian Contingent to the United Nations Transition Assistance Group in Namibia. For his work in Nambia he was awarded the Conspicuous Service Medal.
His leadership training was continued through his various postings. In 1985 he attended the Australian Command and Staff College, Queenscliff. In 1991 he was sent to the Australian Joint Services Staff College where he earned a Graduate Diploma in Strategic Studies. In 1998 he was a member of the Royal College of Defence Studies in the United Kingdom. Command and administrative postings followed and promotions in rank were part of the career process.
The culmination was in 2008 when Lieutenant General was made Chief of Army. He was now CEO of a 48,000 people, $6 billion operating budget, multi profession, output focused enterprise. The General conceived, planned and successfully implemented the largest corporate restructure in some 40 years. He was able to maintain high industry outputs in complex security, fiscal and political environments
while implementing a challenging capital reinvestment program.
The General led a major, and successful, savings program while delivering each of the organisation’s exacting mission statements plus he led and succeeded in a highly challenging, and public, accountability environment. In the personnel areas General Gillespie implemented major people strategies relating to gender equity, workforce rehabilitation, career and talent management, workforce communication and work place safety. All of these leadership challenges were in an environment where death, injury and grief were present.
For his distinguished service and high order achievements as the Vice Chief of the Defence Force/Chief of Joint Operations and Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Gillespie was advanced to Companion in the Military Division of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day 2011 Honours List.
Since departing the Army, Ken has served on numerous boards and conducted reviews for the NSW Government. In March 2017, the General was appointed by the NSW Premier to the position of Regional Infrastructure Coordinator and will be responsible for advising the government on the delivery of regional infrastructure projects.
Lieutenant General Gillespie enjoys the opportunity to share his insights and knowledge in a broad corporate environment. He is a gifted public speaker and is able to pitch his messages at many different levels of management. From apprentice brickie to Lieutenant General is a wonderful achievement and testament to this man’s motivation and will to succeed. Lieutenant General Gillespie’s leadership is inspiring yet he still maintains the common touch...the brickie is still in his makeup!