IFAJ is the world’s only global organization dedicated solely to agricultural journalism. As a result, IFAJ members are all leaders in their own way, representing agricultural journalism and sometimes being called on to speak for agriculture as a whole.
Leaders have many different styles. Each style has something to teach us, as Jane Craigie, IFAJ executive member from the British Agricultural Journalists guild, wrote in a recent speech to Scottish rural leaders. See what she describes as her “10 learnings about leadership” below.
Learning one: You don’t have to be big to be powerful.
Mahatma Gandhi, the great man that led India to independence, wasn’t born a courageous, outspoken leader. In his autobiography, he says that, as a boy, he was so shy that he would run home from school because he couldn’t bear to talk to anybody. Yet this small, Indian man inspired millions of people and was cited as having influenced many world leaders including Martin Luther King Jr., The Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela.
Learning Two: Have vision
Nelson Mandela held the vision that he could bring an end to apartheid in a South Africa that was fiercely racist. He held on to this vision despite being incarcerated in prison for 27 years in the most inhumane conditions. He had an unstinting belief that one day his vision would become a reality. Discipline, passion and self-belief drove him forward, one day at a time.
Learning Three: Challenge the status quo, be disruptive
Ask a London cabbie what he thinks about Uber the disruptive taxicab business and he’ll probably spit his fury in your face. It’s not surprising – Uber has grown from zero to over 20,000 cabs in London in three years; to put this number into perspective, there are only 22,000 black cabs registered in the city, so it’s doubled the number of cars. There’s an opportunity for London cabbies to stop complaining and look at how they can respond based on their USPs – fixed & transparent prices, customer service, touristic icon and knowledgeable.
Learning Four – Be bold with your ideas
It’s how great ideas and businesses are formed. Who’d have thought that one day an apple would morph from a piece of fruit to a small gadget that fits neatly into your pocket. That it would hold the answer to millions of random questions like how many light bulbs there are there in Buckingham Palace (40,000 apparently), tell you how many steps you’ve walked today and allow you to carry your whole music collection with you everywhere you go?
Learning Five: Network – The old adage it’s not what you know, it’s who you know is fundamental to good leadership. The energy of people fuels every good idea, movement and action. Keep feeding your network, even if you’d rather stay in with a beer watching Eastenders, get yourself out there and active in your communities.
Learning Six: Travel a lot to other businesses, cities and countries
Scotland is a small country and we can be restrictively insular. It’s important to get out of our collective comfort zones. I’ve learnt a lot from the travelling I routinely do as part of my career. It is humbling to see the drive spawned in Peter, a Zimbabwean farmer who fled for his life from his family farm of 5 generations – all he took with him was his wife and two daughters, their dog and a few keepsakes in his ‘Backy’; he now runs the most magical des-res lifestyle community, complete with polo club and vineyard an hour from Cape Town.
Learning Seven: Communicate clearly and with passion.Formulate your ideas with clarity – it will give you confidence. Learn to communicate well, think about how you will respond to the naysayers. To learn the skill, listen and have a go. Watch TED Talks and try them yourself. Do some speech-making training. Listen to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. Speak to people outside your usual network – it will test your thinking and your ability to respond.
Learning Eight: Be strong
Like many who have led volunteers, I had to learn to be strong and Teflon-coated during my chairmanship of the British Guild which came hard because I’m naturally sensitive. I had to grip the issues with volunteers – they promise and don’t always deliver; I had to instil in my team that, despite being volunteers, we had to be as professional as you would if you were paid for the role and I learnt that, as a leader, there are many days when I would have preferred to don my walking boots and leave the maelstrom of issues behind me; but you have to find the strength to endure. Those closest to you and the people in this room will help you when your strength wavers.
Learning Nine: Collaborate
Stronger together is a great term – forget for a moment that it was coined by pro-unionists – and think about another example. When New Zealand lost its farming subsidies, almost overnight. Rather than becoming factional and fighting for their own corners as we can sometimes do in British farming, they united. The majority of milk processing is now owned by farmer co-ops, New Zealand milk-based exports now account for around 40% of the international dairy trade and the country controls a massive 80% of the global dairy trade. None of this would have been possible without shared vision and collaboration
Learning Ten: Be mindful of othersBeing bold and strong doesn’t mean that you can lose your humility – quite the opposite. We have all seen people trample others to get to where THEY want to be. In the long-run this approach will backfire – and you will lose two things vital to good leaders – your allies and their respect.