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"The navy shaped the leader I am today. In any organization, it’s always about the people."

Adrian Johnson
Vice President, Singapore, APAC

Part one of a two-part profile, read part two here.

Meet Adrian Johnson, Vice President, APAC, Hitachi Vantara

  • A Royal Australian Navy military veteran
  • A believer of staying relevant through change
  • A technology expert

Coming from a Military Background

After graduating I was trying to decide what to do with my career. I had the misfortune of graduating during a recession so graduate roles were tough to come by. My family background was in the British and Australian military — father, mother, brother, two uncles, auntie, and cousins, all served in some capacity.

I always had a keen interest in serving in the military and knew that I would regret not taking the opportunity to serve. The circumstances were just right for me to take that plunge. I joined the Royal Australian Navy and trained at the Royal Australian Naval College in Jervis Bay to become an officer.

“My time in the Navy shaped the leader I am today, to understand the importance of people. No matter how high tech, an organization is always about people.”

Adrian Johnson, Vice President, Singapore, APAC

Mission Training

When you're training you don’t get to spend too much time enjoying the scenery around you. I had an amazing experience in self-discovery and leadership training. It was a great foundation of what it means to lead people and what it means to be part of something much larger than yourself. You learn the value of contribution, but you also learn that everybody needs to be trained to be replaceable.

In the Navy, you can join a ship with a crew of 300 people, but that crew will change out every 18 -24months — yet the mission of the ship remains. It will keep doing what it's doing because the crew has been trained to continue to perform the mission no matter who is in the role. That is as true of the captain as it is for the junior most crew member.

For centuries the Australian Navy and the British Navy before it, has performed its mission because of the relentless focus on mission training and people doing the right thing, understanding what their role is, and having a commitment to getting the job done. Every couple of years you change jobs; as a young person it’s a steep learning curve, but a very good one.

Shaping My Leadership Style

During my Navy years, I was thrown into new roles with new missions and often found myself leading people that were much older than me, and with greater experience. You are given the responsibility, authority, and accountability for getting the job done and you learn very quickly the importance of good leadership if you are to be successful.

As your leadership style develops you learn a lot about yourself, both your strengths and your weaknesses. You also learn the importance of doing your job well. People are more inclined to trust and follow leaders who are competent in their role. You also learn how important is to know your people.

A team is a group of individuals and knowing them and showing a deep interest in their development helps build connection and trust. There will be times, particularly in a military environment, when you will ask a lot of your people. Your leadership will often be the difference in how your team performs. My time in the Navy shaped the leader I am today, providing me with an incredible opportunity to build a leadership foundation and to understand the importance of people in a high performing organization. No matter how high tech an organization is, it’s always about the people.