Report Detail Page

Leadership in the Lamb and Sheepmeat Industry in the 21st Century

1.3 Key Findings

1.3.1 Industry Participant Interviewees

The overall attitude expressed by the interviewees was positive and optimistic. There was an evident pride in the emergence and achievement of the industry. Some participants expressed a wish for the industry to develop a stronger, “better” image to attract more participants. At least two people used the term “more sexy” in reference to the desired image. A number of positive leadership behaviours were mentioned, including the work of some “cutting edge producers in alliance with marketing/processor groups”, the impact of LAMBPLAN, specific lamb development groups and the leading role of some processors through supply groups.

Along with this optimism came a significant number of comments about what is not working in the industry’s leadership. There were references made to “talk-fests’, vested interest and competitiveness of some established leaders of the industry, the lack of younger industry participants stepping up to leadership roles and the reluctance or inability of some innovative producers to have a wider impact on the industry.

When mentioning what is missing in the industry leadership, respondents mentioned the lack of direction for the industry, poor overall leadership skills in the industry, the dominance of state-based and other ineffectual organisations and the negative impact on younger people who do step forward to involve themselves in leadership of the present culture of the “older leaders”.

The interviewees also identified significant challenges for industry leadership, including the shrinking group of people available for leadership in the next 5 – 10 years, the overall level of “non-participation” by industry members, the conflict of demands on time, especially or younger industry members and the entrenched attitude of the older industry participants towards the younger ones. This last issue tended to focus on the fact that the contributions of younger people on committees, development teams and the like were dismissed by the older members. This discouraged the younger people from participating, further exacerbating the issue of the shrinking numbers of possible leadership participants.

1.3.2 Leadership Development

A number of leadership development providers were interviewed and a number of programs reviewed. Some of the reviews were of published material only, some involved discussions with the course providers and some included interviews with graduates of the program.

Overall, the value and benefit of most of the offerings to the future industry leadership model was small. Many of the courses currently available lacked the rigours of detailed training needs analyses, a statement of targeted outcomes of the program in terms of leadership development, ongoing evaluation of participants against any goals or outcomes and any follow-up validation of the impact of the programs on the individual, their community and their industry. Some programs, such as the QDPI Building Rural Leaders program and the package of initiatives delivered under Progress Rural WA, have had extensive follow-up research into the value they have delivered. These are, however, the exceptions to the norm.

Another identified problem with many of the development opportunities available is the curriculum content. Most programs currently available have, as part of their curriculum, a fairly traditional approach to “leadership”. The traditional model of leadership delivered by most of these programs is the “hero-leader” model, focussed on skills such as negotiating, influencing and media management at a national level and meeting management, minute-taking and decision-making processes at a local level. The programs are slanted to develop leaders, not leadership. The focus is internal, on the individual and not external, on the community within which the “leader” will interact.

A beneficial aspect of many of the current development offerings is the inclusion of some form of self-diagnostic instrument. The use of these tools contributes to an understanding of individual differences and the benefit of understanding and capitalising on these differences. In some ways, this aspect of curricula contributes to a more collaborative style of leadership, acknowledging the benefit of differences between people.

The research identified a number of programs, which are incorporating aspects of a newer approach to leadership and to the development of social, community or industry leadership. These programs typically use external involvement in projects as part of the curriculum, employ coaches and mentors to support the participants’ involvement in community and have some form of post-program evaluation, which assesses the impact of the individual’s participation on the program, in terms of their impact on their community. Some of the more “senior” programs, such as the Australian Rural Leadership Program (ARLP) and the Sydney Leadership Program of the Benevolent Society of NSW have alumni groups as the focus and vehicle for post-course activity and contribution to the community.

Finally, this part of the research showed a low participation rate by lamb and sheepmeat industry members in programs ranging from the ARLP, through the Marcus Oldham Rural Leadership program, to FarmBis One, covering the period of 1998 to 2001.

1.3.3 Desk Research

The literature and desk research highlighted the extensive availability of material relevant to leadership in general and as may be relevant to the industry.

Key researchers/writers on leadership in the 1990s presented a continuum of thought from leadership as a process, through leadership as a systems approach, to a concept of leadership as a collaborative activity carried out by all levels of the “community of commitment”. In the mid-90s and years since, a “new philosophy” of leadership has emerged. It defines leadership as directing “the work of the group”, happening in relationships within social structures and harnessing the work, social and belief systems of the group or organisation. This concept of leadership as part of the system or culture of the organisation was first espoused by the sociologist Max Weber over one hundred years ago and has been recently supported by publications such as Collins & Porras (1994) Built to Last. In this book, the authors maintain that successful companies that survive and thrive do so because leadership development is part of the organisation’s systems and culture. Johnson & Johnson (J & J) has been the subject of much research because of their focus on leadership development. Their current Chairman and CEO, Ralph Larsen, states that “Leadership is the biggest single constraint to growth at J & J and it’s the most critical business issue we face.” The company therefore invests heavily in leadership development as a critical contributor to change and innovation.

The literature search also identified a set of competencies that are likely to support the desired model of leadership for the industry in the future. The concept of Emotional Intelligence and its competencies has a demonstrable contribution to the development and implementation of the industry’s leadership of the future.

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This page was last updated on 10/11/2014

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