For South Australian dairy industry leader David Basham, one of the most important break throughs for his sector was also the most challenging. Mr Basham, whose family has been in dairy for 120 years, is a former president of the South Australian Dairy Farmers and described the challenges of leadership at a breakfast sponsored by the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria.
He said leadership was about understanding history and managing change.
One of the most frightening moments he experienced was when his organisation decided to get into its own line of milk products in a bid to lift return for farmers.
The decision generated a lot of controversy and Mr Basham shared how he felt during a critical meeting with farmers to discuss the move.
He said farmers were angry and upset, but in the end he found sufficient support for the change and one of the most vocal opponents at the start of the meeting eventually joined the new company.
He urged aspiring leaders to find mentors and named several people (including Pat Rowley) who had inspired and encouraged him.
‘‘It’s also about maintaining relationships. So that if political leaders want to find out what’s happening in the industry they will think of you straight away and call you.’’
In tough times, he said he learnt that it was also important to listen and engage key people in decision making.
He encouraged the crowd to find people who could succeed present day leaders.
‘‘Try to find people who want your job.
‘‘I want to find the right person to take over when I go.
‘‘You don’t want to get to the point where you leave and there is a complete void.’’