AFL Commissioner, Major General Simone Wilkie, speaks at a media conference in December 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

FROM the battlefields of Iraq to the bushfire-ravaged landscape of Kangaroo Island, Major General Simone Wilkie knows plenty about hardship and loss.

But when faced with adversity, Major General Wilkie says it's the ability of leaders to empower their people that will define how an organisation responds.

And in that sense, an army unit has more in common with a football club than you might initially think.

Major General Wilkie, who is also an AFL Commissioner, joined broadcaster and Western Bulldogs great Luke Darcy for an episode of his new podcast, Empowering Leaders, to share her perspective on leadership and strong, resilient organisations.

She said her experience in Iraq under United States Army General David Petraeus showed her the importance of leaders understanding the challenges faced by their people at all levels.

"The higher up you go, in many organisations, people don't deliberately filter the truth or their views," Major General Wilkie said.

"There are some people who have their own set of agendas and through their lens can only see a part of the bigger picture … and so the further up you get, you're getting all different advice. If it's not accurate and you're making decisions that affect people's lives, that is critical to make sure that you're getting out to find out what's going on.

"So General Petraeus would regularly go out into the battlefield and talk to people and try and get those briefings so that he'd make the best decision on the information that he was provided.

"That, to me is really good leadership in an organisation which was scores of thousands of people from over 40 different countries."

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan and AFL Commissioner Major General Simone Wilkie at the announcement of six expansion AFLW teams in 2017. Picture: AFL Photos

Major General Wilkie said she had taken a similar approach to her role on the AFL Commission, which she has held since 2015.

Pre-COVID, she visited clubs and went to game to better understand the issues that various parts of the industry faced.

"That's not to say that you'll understand everything, it's impossible to understand every single aspect. And that goes back to that important element of delegating and empowering people to make decisions, because it's what happens when you're not there that matters, isn't it, when you're talking about leadership?" she said.

"So if you've provided the opportunity for people to make the right calls, then you'll be successful. And there's different models even inside the AFL on the way that clubs do it. And part of what we've been talking around really is culture and the culture of those organisations. There's a hell of a lot of similarities between an army unit and an AFL football club."