active CEO Podcast #50 Major General Cheryl Pearce Leading From The Front Lines

Major General Cheryl Pearce – Forces Commander United Nations Peacekeeping Force

On this episode of the active CEO Podcast, Craig Johns speaks with Major General Cheryl Pearce about leading from the front lines, being an authentic leader, serving your country, managing workplace wellness, empowering a sense of purpose, and creating high performance teams. We also delve into her leadership roles at the Australian Defence Force and with the United Nations; creating a safe and inclusive environment to work in; completing the New York Marathon; and getting out of her comfort zone.

Major General Cheryl Pearce

Cheryl Pearce is an
authentic leader, dedicated servant for global peace, change agent in cultural
and gender diversity, and game-changer in the world of Defence. She is a next
generational leader who is New York Marathon finisher, proud mum of two
daughters, and Member of Order of Australia for Exceptional Leadership.

Her education includes a
Bachelor of Arts in Asian Studies from the University of New England, a Master’s
in Policing, Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism from the Macquarie University
in Sydney, and a Master’s of Arts in Defence Studies from the Deakin University
in Melbourne.

Over the past 35 years she
has risen through the ranks of the Australian Defence Force, starting off as an
Officer Cadet when there were only a few females. Cheryl’s career has included:
Australian Army’s Provost-Marshal and a military observer with the United
Nations Mission of Support in East Timor in 2002; Commandant of the Defence
Police Training Centre and Commanding Officer of the 1st Military Police
Battalion; Director of Special Operations Support; Australian Army Headquarters
Chief of Staff; and the Commander Commandant Australian Defence Force Academy.

In 2016, Cheryl was the
Commander of the Australian Joint Task Force Group in Afghanistan providing
training, advice and assistance to the Afghan National Defence and Security
Forces as part of the Resolute Support Mission of The North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO). Her most recent role sees her as only the second ever
female appointed by the United Nations to lead a peacekeeping mission, as the
Forces Commander – United Nations Peacekeeping Force based in Cyprus.

Cheryl talks about:

  • The shock of capture when joining the Australian Army.
  • Working day-by-day and focusing on chunk size bites at a time.
  • The internal motivation of serving your country and be much more than your individual self.
  • Managing competing priorities as a leader and having a young family.
  • Having an army behind the scenes.
  • Gaining the confidence to be that authentic self and have an intuitive leadership style.
  • Being sensitive to perfectionism and judgement.
  • Leading from the front lines
  • Why exercise is my stress release and my safe space.
  • The importance of listening to what other people have to say and not transmit our own ideas.
  • The Cultural shift in inclusion and behaviour within the Australian Defence Force.
  • Her role as the Forces Commander – United Nations Peacekeeping Force based in Cyprus.
  • Speaking in front of the UN Security Council.
  • How health has taken on a broader aspect from mind and body.
  • Completing the New York Marathon after her partner, Paul, went through lifesaving cancer surgery.

CEO Wellness Tip

Recover With Purpose – To ensure that you deliver high
performance every single day, you need to recover with purpose and have
productive downtime. It could be doing exercise, creative pursuits, quality
time with family, meditation, listening to music or watching a movie.


“Internal narrative that keeps churning, it is ok to
be imperfect. To be perfect, the authenticity is not there. It’s ok not to be
perfect.” Major General Cheryl Pearce speaks
about the challenges of perfectionism, on the active CEO Podcast.

“Doing what I do, my heart rate races when I de-escalate and have difficult conversations with my opposing forces when I try to get messages a across or deal with stressful moments. I find that is sufficient adrenaline to test me all the time.” Doing something for the first time with Major General Cheryl Pearce, on the active CEO Podcast.

“I know it when I can be in the moment, I am
performing really well at work, I am visionary, I can really focus on where we
are going and know what my big rocks are and where they are going, while
dealing with the small and actionary issues and listening.” In the moment with Major General Cheryl Pearce, on
the active CEO Podcast.

Resources Mentioned in this show:

Cheryl Pearce LinkedIn
Cheryl Pearce Twitter
Australian Army
UNFICYP website
Craig Johns
Craig Johns LinkedIn

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