The Dairy Leadership Strategy is intended to be aspirational, idealistic and transformational. It is a plan that everyone in the industry can contribute to in their own way, in whatever role they play.

The plan builds on ideas and suggestions that came out of industry consultation over the past two years. Participants identified the following priority issues for effective industry leadership:

  • Create a shared vision
  • Embrace change
  • Foster a culture everyone aspires to be part of
  • Build industry unity and collaboration
  • Be open to new ideas and diversity
  • Build trust and make dairy a trusted industry
  • Put wellbeing first
  • Work for a profitable, viable industry
  • Create flexible learning pathways

The Dairy Leadership Strategy is aligned with the Australian Dairy Plan’s commitment to ‘transform dairy through industry-wide leadership and a positive culture’, involving leadership and culture change encompassing the values, mindsets and behaviours that will promote a more unified, inclusive and collaborative industry culture.

An effective leadership strategy, emphasising contemporary leadership approaches, is seen as a key enabler in this process.

Why change how we think about leadership?

In the past we thought of leadership development as being exclusively for people who were elected or appointed to positions of higher authority. Policy councillors, directors, farm owners and managers were seen to be industry leaders while farm hands, tanker drivers and factory workers were usually not.

This exclusive idea about leadership needs to change as the world around us changes. Today we live in a rapidly changing world. The authority of leaders in government, religion, work and organisations is no longer accepted automatically. Ideas zip across the globe instantaneously; access to information and knowledge has exploded; people hold widely different understanding, beliefs and values that often conflict. We are exposed to a world that has become more volatile, uncertain, and unpredictable.

In these circumstances we must make an extra effort to work together to achieve the best outcomes we can. Today we see the need to use everyone’s resources, knowledge, and talents, so we can generate better ideas, improve productivity, get better outcomes, create our own shared, stable place in the world, and enjoy richer and more rewarding lives. This way of thinking and behaving cooperatively is what we call leadership today.

To make changes in our approach to leadership everyone in our workplace, team or committee must participate, otherwise it will not work.

Today the key task of experienced leaders is to support and encourage others to grow as leaders, whatever their position, in much the same way as a coach guides and directs a team. Employees, committee members and team members can change by taking on greater responsibility and becoming more accountable for their tasks and supporting their fellow workers.


Our vision is to build a contemporary,  cohesive and prosperous dairy industry through shared leadership


Dairy uniting through shared leadership

The changing language of leadership

As the way we approach leadership development changes, so contemporary leadership has developed its own vocabulary. Key concepts in this leadership language are ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ skills and ‘above the line’ and ‘below the line’ behaviour.

‘Vertical’ and ‘Horizontal’ skills

Good leadership needs vertical skills. These are the skills that describe how we think and behave or ‘how we show up’. We apply vertical skills in every job, role and task we perform.

A bookkeeper, a contract milker, a plumber, an agronomist, a farmer or a teacher are all roles that require particular knowledge and skills. This is ‘what we know’. These are called our horizontal skills.

‘Above the line’ and ‘Below the line’ behaviour

Behaviour that is accountable, sharing, listening, including, encouraging, stepping up, being open to new ideas, genuinely trying to understand differing views, are some of the ‘above the line’ behaviours whereas bullying, blaming, impatience, not accepting responsibility, autocratic, ‘my way or the highway’, victimising, excluding others or their ideas, falsely acting as a victim to gain advantage, etc is ‘below the line’ behaviour.

Changing the way we develop leadership skills

The dairy industry leadership strategy aims to give everyone the opportunity to develop vertical leadership capabilities. Vertical skills can be learned and improved. They can make us stronger performers in our chosen roles, make life richer for us and better for those around us and can contribute to changing the culture of the dairy industry.

Through vertical leadership development we can all change the way we think and act, become more accountable to one another, develop a better understanding of ourselves and our impacts on others.

Leadership development priorities

The Dairy Industry Leadership strategy prioritises the development of vertical skills because they are the universal skills that everyone can acquire and that have the greatest potential to build a culture of unity, confidence and profitability.

For those who choose to take on formal leadership roles in the industry, the strategy also encompasses horizontal skills training required for formal leadership and governance.

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