Jeff Schuller, of Thomas Foods International Feedlot in South Australia, has been on a leadership quest in the past 12 months.
The feedlot operations manager was one of two 2021 recipients of an Australian Lot Feeders' Association and Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) grain-fed beef industry scholarship to participate in the Australian Rural Leadership Program (ARLP).
This program is run by the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation (ARLF) and provides an opportunity for leadership development using challenge-based and experiential learning.
Each year, ALFA and MLA award up to two scholarships to lot feeders to attend the ARLP Program - which is an investment of $50,000 each.
The ARLF has 26 years of experience in up-skilling existing and aspiring leaders.
Its model reflects current thinking and practice in the areas of adult education, leadership and capacity building.
Mr Schuller applied for the ARLP program scholarship because he wanted to challenge and develop his skills.
"The ARLP offers a program like no other," he said.
"It is an opportunity to delve into leadership and self-development and growth with such depth."
Through the ARLP training, Mr Schuller has had numerous face-to-face and online zoom sessions during the 16-month course.
He said there were many highlights, including professional development in problem-solving tasks, building resillience and networking opportunities.
The course is designed to take individuals outside of their "comfort zone" and facilitate reliance on themselves and others.
"We work on real situations towards goals that benefit our organisations, industries and stakeholders more broadly," Mr Schuller said.
"Critical thinking is another key area, building processes of taking in and assessing information in terms of higher order issues."
Mr Schuller said his group had been due to visit New Zealand, but could not travel due to COVID-19 restrictions.
He said, instead, there was a four-day program with keynote speakers presenting about impact and influence, advocacy and action.
"We had a presentation from Han Worsley, who told her story about advocacy for gender equality," he said.
"We also heard from Pastor Jon Wayside-Wayside Chapel, who shared his story about both influence and advocacy, and Michelle Deshong, who discussed politics, race and gender."
Mr Schuller said across the four days they discussed:
"Although it wasn't in person, it was good to connect as a cohort," he said.
"At this stage we are looking forward to visiting Singapore together - pending pandemic restrictions - for our last session in March 2022. This will focus on impact and influence.
Mr Schuller said being part of the ARLP had challenged him and enabled him to grow as a person and as a leader.
He said he would take the skills learned into being a mentor for the Drought Resilience Leaders Mentoring Program.
"I feel this is a key opportunity for me to give back to others and put into practice what I have learned while being part of the ARLP," he said.
"I knew the ARLP would be a very influential experience.
"What I didn't realise at the time was the journey it would take me on and the alumni it would leave me connected to.
The program has given me endless opportunities for learnings to take home to my work and community.
"The most powerful has been the ability to use critical self-refection."
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