- Opinion Piece -

Leadership is Open to Everyone

Sam Birrell 2019

There are pivot points in life, times of questioning and considering direction. Reflecting on who you are, your capabilities, flaws, and what really matters to you. Gaining a better understanding of those around you, and the community that you live in. For me a major pivot point was 2013, when I completed the Fairley Leadership program. It was a year I learned a huge amount about what was immediately around me in the Goulburn Valley, and a lot about myself.

Fairley Leadership started in 1997, and on the back page of every Fairley yearbook are the names of the alumni – now over 700 of them. When looking for a community minded person to help with an issue or project, or to fill a job, it is a useful reference. The diversity of leadership types and styles is apparent – yes there are politicians and prominent civic and business leaders, but there are also people who ‘lead from behind’, driving community outcomes in quieter but no less important ways. I think there are people out there who may think that the Fairley Leadership program is not for them because they don’t have a title or position, but in fact they could be exactly the person who would use the program to enhance the communities around them.

Greater Shepparton is well networked – and this was evidenced in the recent Covid crisis, where in a very short period people and groups were able to come together with a co-ordinated response. These networks come together quickly but take many years to build. Fairley Leadership has been a strong part of that, and many of the people who participated in the response had past involvement with the Fairley Leadership program. In a world where it is possible to get siloed and only get the perspectives of those who look and think like you, Fairley helps bridge the divide in understanding.

The program goes for a year and involves a series of seminar days – hearing from leaders in various sectors and from each other in the ‘about me’ sessions. The experience of bonding so quickly with people you have never met before, and never would have met – is profound. There are also trips to Canberra and Melbourne – which sadly haven’t happened in person for the past two years but give opportunities to hear from political leaders, and have your own perceptions and paradigms challenged.

As I look back at my 2013 Fairley yearbook, every person I did Fairley with had an impact on me. It is amazing how much you don’t know what you don’t know. When asked on my goals following Fairley Leadership I am quoted as saying ‘to have some involvement with the newly formed Committee for Greater Shepparton’. Interesting how some things work out.

Applications are open now for the 2022 cohort. Leadership has never been more important. Having people who understand and consider the views of others is critical to us moving forward as a society. Networks where diverse groups of people can pick up the phone to each other and work on issues facing our community help our cohesion and success are critical. Fairley helps with all of this. It would be great to get community leaders of all backgrounds and styles involved in next year’s cohort and be part of the next chapter of the region’s progress.

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Sam Birrell

Sam Birrell

Sam is the CEO of Committee for Greater Shepparton.