Learning to be leaders

By Geoff Adams

A batch of potential leaders began a new phase of their life journey last week as they celebrated the launch of the 2019 Fairley Leadership Program.

The 28 new participants will join an alumni of about 550 graduates since the establishment of the program in 1997.

Celebrating its 23rd year, the program provides an opportunity for people to develop leadership skills across the Goulburn Murray region.

Newly appointed Fairley Leadership Program facilitator Sandy Gunn said the event was just the start of an eye-opening year for the new participants.

The new cohort will experience more than 120 speakers who will aim to inspire and challenge the group.

‘‘It is a marvellous opportunity to listen to and engage with the people who have shaped our community and who are certainly profound in their different styles of leadership,’’ Ms Gunn said.

Goulburn Murray Community Leadership Inc. chief executive officer Michelle Luscombe said the selection process was difficult this year, after 40 applications were received.

Ms Luscombe said diversity in people and perspectives was a key part of the program.

Fairley Leadership Program chair Sam Birrell echoed Ms Luscombe’s comments and said the program was a real touch-point in people’s lives.

‘‘I grew up in Shepparton and you can really exist in a silo if you choose to,’’ Mr Birrell said.

‘‘You don’t know what you don’t know.’’

Mr Birrell completed the program in 2013, and praised it for being a strong catalyst for change and action in his life.

‘‘You get to speak to amazing leaders, but you learn most from your cohort,’’ he said.

‘‘It really helped me learn a lot about the history of the region and those most vulnerable in our community.’’

He said the success of the program was evident in the number of community leaders present in the Greater Shepparton and Murray regions.

Guest speaker Rob Priestly challenged the Fairley candidates to take a regional perspective in their leadership opportunity and to never settle for the option of wanting to make things like they used to be.

Mr Priestly, who is chair of the Committee for Greater Shepparton, outlined foundations for leadership, which included self-assessment and identifying strengths, recognising good models for leadership (and understanding what bad ones are), understanding your own biases, and utilising local knowledge.

‘‘Start to understand what you don’t know,’’ he said.

‘‘Most times in leadership you are not making decisions on your own knowledge — but you need to find out who knows most about it.’’

He warned against bias towards groups of people.

‘‘There are many bad ideas around, but fewer bad people.

‘‘We need great leadership. You are it.’’

Across the year, participants will take part in an opening and closing retreat, 12 regional-issue-themed seminar days, three skills-based days and study tours to Canberra and Melbourne.