Leaders key for success

Leadership key to sheep industry success

Sheep Producers Australia CEO Dr Kat Giles says leadership is the key to sheep industry success.

Sheep Producers Australia CEO Dr Kat Giles says leadership is the key to sheep industry success.


Sheep Producers Australia CEO Dr Kat Giles says leadership is the key to success in the sheep industry.


Building industry leadership capacity has been identified by Sheep Producers Australia (SPA) as one of the critical factors to ensure the future success of the sheep industry.

As part of a review undertaken by SPA two years ago, during its development of the Sheep Industry Strategic Plan 2020 (SISP), it was determined that there were 150 leadership positions within the industry which were being filled by only about 50-60 people. The need to develop leadership skills to support the industry was identified in the SISP2020. However, the strategy identified a range of impediments that could stand in the way of attracting leaders or enabling them to succeed. 

The first was an absence of core skills and demonstrated leadership knowledge and experience. While sheepmeat producers have a passion for their industry, they often come to leadership roles with a variety of skills and experience.

Formal exposure to the fundamentals of governance, working with media, public speaking, policy development and teamwork are required. The strategy found poor systems and processes greatly impact the effectiveness of leaders. Efficient systems provide the resources and support that enable leaders to be more effective in their roles, especially to manage time commitments and increase information transfer.

Finally, there was a lack of formal succession planning and mentoring of future leaders which meant the entire industry was found to lack mechanisms for smooth transitioning of responsibilities from incumbents to incoming leaders, such as the way terms are structured, induction processes, and exit interviews.

There was also a need to ensure less key person dependency, deepen the organisation’s “brains trust”, and open up groups to new ideas and opportunities.

So with these impediments in mind, in 2016 SPA developed a suite of programs to ensure the Australian sheep industry attracts, develops and retains people with the right leadership skills to contribute to the long-term viability of the industry. The building leadership capability for the sheep industry initiative is funded by Meat and Livestock Australia. Through the project, SPA manages a range of programs to develop leaders, build networks and contribute to the industry’s future.

  1. Sheepmeat Industry Leadership Program: An opportunity for 30 sheep industry participants to receive formal training to develop leadership capabilities, a deeper understanding of the leadership challenges in the industry and ongoing relationships and networks.
  2.  Sheepmeat Industry Governance Scholarship: Fifteen sheep producers complete the Australian Institute of Company Directors course to increase understanding of best practice governance and roles and responsibilities of board directors.
  3. Sheepmeat Industry Ambassador Award: The award recognises the contributions of two outstanding young sheep producers and their potential as industry leaders.
  4. Governance in Action Program: SPA initiated this program to build industry knowledge and skills of people working in the industry’s representative roles. 

In October 2017, SPA was successful in its bid to the Australian Government’s Leadership in Agricultural Industries Fund. SPA’s application to the fund included development of a national-wide network designed to provide information, opportunities and leadership development through innovative platforms which will begin in 2018. The long-term success of the sheep industry depends on the skills of people that work along the supply chain. Recognising this, SPA encourages all participants in the supply chain to consider how they may be involved.

  • Sheep Producers Australia CEO, Dr Kat Giles, talking all things livestock.

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