Good leadership can bring about new and innovative ways to run your business. And while many of you will invest in new machinery or planting/developing new varieties, what have you really done to develop your team? What are you doing to help develop leadership capability in your staff, to build a stronger, more successful business? These are just some of the questions I had after I participated in the inaugural three day PMA Australia-New Zealand Emerging Leaders course in Auckland. Together with 26 participants (aged in their 20s and 30s) from across the fresh produce supply chain (including seed suppliers, growers, exporters, importers, industry associations and retailers), I explored in-depth the challenges facing our industry and how to go about tackling them effectively. When I think of the leaders in our industry, I realise they have many traits in common. And from my experience the most effective leaders show integrity, are authentic, bring enthusiasm and most importantly have a positive attitude. To succeed in any industry its important we foster a culture of leadership and encourage new ways of thinking to drive change and improvement especially in the challenging and dynamic environment facing apple and pear growers. We have all heard our Federal and State governments talk about Australia as the next food bowl of Asia but Im yet to hear them talk convincingly about addressing the challenges we face in meeting this goal. When compared to other countries success in developing new markets and securing workable export protocols, I dont believe our government has shown strong enough leadership in securing the same outcomes for Australian growers. However, to meet the ambitious (but realistic) goal of feeding Asia it is important that industry also lead by example. I now realise that leadership may not come from the top and it doesnt necessarily have to but it is up to all of us to work together to help drive the necessary changes. We also need to work towards building the foundations that will help create a prosperous future and this cant happen unless we unite as team horticulture. These realisations although not ground-breaking were just many the course helped put into perspective. It provided the group with a high beam view of the complex dynamics in the produce industry both now and in the future and ways to tackle them. Through a complex business simulation we worked in groups over the three days to put theory into practice. This gave greater insight into what it would be like to run a fresh produce business with operations across Asia and all the internal and external factors that influence success. Our team ended up with the most profitable business due to our strategy and attention to detail which we were really proud of! We were each able to lead the group at various points drawing on our differing experiences in business management. Whilst I quickly realised that number-crunching isnt my forte, I loved being able to use my skills in marketing and Asian business context to help the group navigate particular tasks. Throughout the course it became clear that most of us were there for the same reasons to build networks, to learn new ways to solve problems and to drive positive change. Everyone who participated was passionate about the fresh produce business and it was really exciting and motivating to be part of! I now believe that leadership is not a position, it is a process. Leadership is about having a meaningful impact and can come from anywhere in the business be it from senior management, workers in the orchard, in the packhouse or junior office staff. Everyone has the potential to make a valuable contribution to the industrys future if they stand up and lead the way. Are you interested in leadership courses and training opportunities, including the APAL-Marcus Oldham Agribusiness Scholarship? Check out the APAL website www.apal.org.au.
About the Author
Claire Fitchett is the Market Development Officer at APAL. Since Claire started at APAL, 14 months ago, she has assisted in redeveloping export markets for Australian apple and pear growers. Claire is particularly passionate about the opportunities for fresh produce in Asia. Claire can be contacted at email@example.com.