We are so excited here at RuralScope. We turn 20 years old in 2020. We are celebrating by sharing 20 stories across 20 months. These will include highlights, lowlights and learnings. A unique insight into our development - personal and business for you. Our aim is to share learnings to support others who live and work across rural Australia.
This is our third story in the series and it’s all about how we got into the leadership in agriculture space.
Our first large scale project in agriculture, Dairying Beyond 2000 was coming to an end. Feedback highlighted our team had led and implemented a bit of a game changer. I remember being told that the dairy industry had not seen the level of engagement with growers and all across the supply chain as they had seen in Dairying Beyond 2000. A big tick and confidence boost for us. I was relieved that the industry’s chance on us had paid off and pleased that I had coordinated a project that delivered direct benefit to farmers, many facing their biggest challenge in generations. We had tapped into the 3F’s – Farm, Family and Finance and it was the “people stuff” (as many called it) that had left a mark.
Next came, AGLINK – a national leadership program for young people in agriculture. 22 young people from across Australia were selected to participate. I researched and developed our very first leadership program from scratch. I drew heavily on my educational background and the field of psychology and transformational leadership. There was a lot of technical training in agriculture available at the time, but few providers of leadership development. I knew this “people stuff” could challenge and support emerging leaders. It was our job to tune people into it and support them to develop, lead and make changes in their business, community or industry.
With funding support from the Commonwealth Government’s Department of Agriculture, we were on our way. I asked Steve Spencer (now from FreshAgenda) to co-facilitate. There is great value in working in a team – with trust and respect you can achieve more together than you ever could apart. The AGLINK program was a combination of individual and group development and then business, community or industry application. Participants chose their context and developed a real life in real time project to work on. The group met face to face and online, the online community was new to agriculture at the time and I was thrilled to be able to facilitate ongoing learning this way. We introduced a program of one on one coaching with each participant. It was here that vulnerability existed without judgement; limiting beliefs and barriers to development could be addressed and concepts and plans were ignited. With participants matched to mentors in the later stage of the program, it is my understanding that this was the very first-time structured mentoring was implemented in Australian agriculture. We tried some new stuff and it paid off.
Our participants achieved great things and although from different industries and different states across Australia, their commitment to leadership was palpable.
Deb McLucas gave birth to The Future Farmers Network, Barramundi farming was trialled in North Queensland, Agrigate, was born to support business development in agriculture by Emily Martin, enterprise expansion plans were put in place by Lyn O’Connor, Lachlan Marshall and others and some commenced a pathway to community and industry leadership and agripolitics. I still read about, meet up with, see on TV, hear on the radio and follow the work of many of the graduates today.
6 Key Learnings from this time;
Leadership is more than the technical skills of public speaking, making a presentation and networking. It’s about reach, influence and impact.
A leadership event / program is not a hotch-potch of activities and guest speakers on an agenda. It’s a well-structured sequence of information, learning and activity that is underpinned by evidence (and if I’m being truthful) a little creative based pedagogy.
Leadership can only be achieved when you give yourself the time and space to become self-aware, understand the big picture and develop your own vision.
I often witness leaders playing small, safe and for the here and now…..it’s a choice, you (no one else) get to choose the size of your leadership playing field
People are wired for connection – when leaders connect through their values, hearts and minds, life levels up and is never ever the same again
Wholehearted relationships develop, grow and change whilst maintaining trust and respect – this is a leadership skill worth learning