GREAT rural leaders are judged by their contribution to serving the greater good, rather than merely advancing their own profile or status, says Australian Rural Leadership Foundation (ARLF) CEO Matt Linnegar.
Mr Linnegar spoke out about his views on what characterises an influential rural Australian leader, with the Foundation celebrating its 25th anniversary at a range of big events in Canberra today.
“Leadership is one of those things where there are as many different views on leadership as there are people,” he said.
“But ultimately, I believe, leaders ought to be judged by their greater contribution to the greater good.
“They should not be judged by their title or how far they’ve advanced themselves but by how far they’ve advanced the interests of others.
“It’s about the greater good of regional and rural Australia and that’s how great leaders should be judged.”
The ARLF concept was born out of a quest by the former Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) in 1991 and 1992 to encourage the development of new rural industries and to enhance the future prospects of communities.
Mr Linnegar said the RIRDC and its board members at the time had done quite bit of work around what contributed to the betterment of rural industries and communities and identified the fact that leadership was a strong determinant of success.
He said they then underwent a global search looking at how to develop leadership more broadly and the ingredients required to form an organisation to drive positive change, gathering input from philanthropic groups working in similar spaces, like the Kellogg Foundation from the US.
“They put together the ARLF 25-years ago and it’s still going today.” He said.
“Our program remains one of the longest, in-depth leadership development programs in Australia and globally.
“The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) and CWA (Country Women's Association) were also involved at that initial concept stage but the ARLF was really developed by RIRDC and the board.”
The Foundation is expecting a crowd of about 400 people at its gala celebration dinner in Canberra tonight.
“We think it will be the biggest, if not one of the biggest meetings of rural and regional leaders to occur in the nation’s capital,” Mr Linnegar said.
“We’re doing it because we’re celebrating the work of the foundation for 25 years which has been focused on leadership development for the greater good of rural, regional and remote Australia.”
The ARLF celebrations also include a graduation ceremony today for its 23rd leaders’ course and its Torres Strait Women’s Leadership Program has also spent the week in Canberra.
“We’ll have a lot of graduates, alumni, former staff and directors and a stack of invited guests at the dinner,” Mr Linnegar said.
Today’s festivities will also include a Regional Australia Leadership Assembly at the National Museum of Australia where the gala dinner will also be held featuring military trailblazer, Major Matina Jewell, as the keynote speaker, talking aobut her views on leadership and what it means to her.
“It is a leadership program and personal development is very much part of it but any leadership program, if it stops at personal development, it’s not a leadership program, in my opinion,” Mr Linnegar, a former NFF CEO, said.
“Ultimately it’s about the impact of those leaders individually and combined and how they work with others in their industry and their communities and it’s that collective impact of their work on rural and regional Australia that’s the most important determinant of whether we’ve been successful or not.”
The ARLF will also use the celebrations to release a scorecard with statistics and indicators, measuring the success of its first 25-years.
Mr Linnegar said the ratings system would assess the impact of the ARLF program on individuals who’ve participated in it and the impact they’ve had on rural and regional Australia.
“One of the best ways to get a sense of what we’re doing and how we’ve performed is through the eyes of those who are investing in our program like the RDCs, corporates, government entities and philanthropic groups,” he said.
“And 91pc of those sponsors believe the ARLF has enhanced rural and regional Australia’s capacity – in one way shape or form.
“And in gauging the views of the leaders themselves, 93pc of our alumni have said the ARLF has significantly enhanced their leadership capacity.
“We’re not into promoting our pin up children individually, if you like, mainly because we believe leaders are required across all spectrums of society. in rural and regional Australia, and in many different positions, and we don’t suggest someone is more important than someone else, simply because of their title.
“But only last week one of our aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander alumni - of which out of 1000 graduates in our alumni about 100 are aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders – one of them, Waverley Stanley, was the subject of Australian Story,
“In federal parliament we have Nigel Scullion and Cathy McGowan and Leeanne Enoch in the Queensland government who are all graduates.
“But our leadership graduates are making a contribution right across the board in business, agribusiness, rural and regional communities, indigenous Australians, health and education etc.
“And there are people like Robbie Sefton who have a regional based business that’s doing well nationally and making a positive contribution to the greater good in a number of areas.”