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David
Knoff

Antarctic Expedition Leader, Adventurer, Isolation & Resilience Expert

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Resilience is built long before it is ever tested.
Profile

David Knoff is an Antarctic Expedition Leader, Author, and leadership expert who specialises in remote leadership, hostile environment diplomacy, and resilience.

David’s international career has taken him across the globe with experiences as an officer in the Australian Army, diplomatic postings in Pakistan and Iraq, and most recently with the Australian Antarctic Program. In 2019, David was given a leadership challenge unlike no other in modern history, as the Station Leader at Davis Station, Antarctica, he was leading a team of just 24 through the isolation of an Antarctic winter when the COVID-19 Pandemic broke out. The impact of the pandemic on Antarctic operations saw David’s team without a ride home as planned and facing one of the longest periods of isolation in modern Antarctic History. Returning to a changed world in mid-2021, David’s book, 537 Days of Winter: Resilience, Endurance and Humanity while stranded in Antarctica during the Pandemic tells the story of what it was like to lead a team through unprecedented uncertainty and how to find resilience in the most extreme environments.

Current Work:
Following his return to Australia in April 2021 and in between adventures, David works as a professional speaker to help others learn from his experiences. David’s unique story helps organisations and individuals understand the highs and lows of leading through adversity and the tools David and his team used throughout their time in Antarctica to endure the anxiety and uncertainty. David is also an advocate for environmental awareness and works with schools and corporations to better understand humanity’s impact on climate and the planet’s most remote wilderness in Antarctica.

Previous Experience:
In 2007, as a junior Officer in the Australian Army, David served in the Solomon Islands which began a lifelong career in international relations. Following this, David began working with Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and was soon overseas on his first Diplomatic posting to the Australian High Commission, Islamabad, at the height of the international coalition’s efforts to bring stability and peace to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It was here that David saw a different side of conflict and humanity as the security and political climate of the region changed daily and where certainty was rarely part of daily life. Following his time in Pakistan, David took a sabbatical from diplomacy and worked as a freelance photographer based in Istanbul, Turkey, as he followed the stories of refugees escaping the growing conflict in Syria to understand the human side of the conflict.

As the conflict grew in Syria and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) threatened regional security, David was part of Australia’s contribution to Operational Enduring Freedom and the international effort to defeat ISIS. Here, David worked in a dynamic and hostile environment and learned the value of empowering remote leaders and teams in unpredictable circumstances and under constant change.

David’s experiences in high-pressure and remote environments has given him a depth of experience from which he has developed his own unique leadership style and enjoys working with organisations seeking to rebuild workplace culture and adapt to the rapid changes of the last few years.

Expertise
Talking Points

537 Days of Winter

What is it like to lead an Antarctic expedition for 537 days, including nearly an entire year without resupply, whilst watching a global pandemic unfold from afar?

This is the story and experience of how David and his team endured the harsh Antarctic environment and the complex human experience of facing uncertainty and adversity as the days, weeks, and months ticked by and what it was like to return to a changed world. Focussed on how to maintain resilience and motivation of individuals, leaders, and teams as well as the tools required to manage and lead through the extreme challenges David and his team faced. From an extended stay in Antarctica, a complex and daring medical evacuation, and finally a shipboard fire just days away from returning home pushed everyone to the limits of human resilience. David’s core keynote 537 Days of Winter is a story unlike any other in modern Antarctic history.

Leading through Adversity

A more focused session aimed at established and emerging leaders and those looking to further their leadership knowledge. How do you live with the team you lead? Where do you draw the line? How do you lead on your bad days? How do you keep a team together as motivation declines and your team's individual and collective resilience is pushed to breaking point? David outlines how he defined his own leadership style and how to find and develop your own individual or team leadership culture and ethos to achieve success in the boardroom, on the battlefield, or desolate Antarctic tundra.

Crisis Management (Workshop or Keynote)

Drawing on his years in global conflict zones and in Antarctica, David outlines how to prepare yourself individually and as a team for critical incident response. Using real-life case studies and examples from his own experience, David outlines his approach to leadership in a crisis and how to maintain teamwork and operational focus even when all hope seems lost and your team are turning to you for answers you don’t have. Ideal for organisations involved in emergency response, use of force, and critical incident response.

MC and Moderator

From large international audiences to small intimate panels and workshops, David’s experience in foreign affairs, international security, environment and science makes for an engaging and entertaining host in a variety of forums and cultural settings.
Media
Feedback
David’s insights and stories were so engaging and valuable. PriceWaterhouseCoopers

Interesting, relatable….the team absolutely loved it.

McMillan Shakespeare Group (Melbourne)

Insightful. Your experience leading teams through adversity, challenges and change at Davis Station during the 2019/20 expedition including practical examples of manage and lead was high impactful and sparked a great deal of positive feedback from our teams. David’s insights on mindfulness and leading worked perfectly with other sessions we’ve run.

Triple M - Southern Cross Austereo

Incredible…inspirational…amazing!

T2
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