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Developing emerging leaders

LEADERSHIP Western Australia is a not-for-profit public company that develops the potential of emerging Western Australian leaders from all business sectors. As an independent, non-aligned entity it draws financial and strategic support from the corporate, public, non-government and community sectors. Launched in 2004, its purpose is to provide experiential leadership programs with a focus on individual development and community involvement for the benefit of WA. It does this by way of a year-long program for participants drawn from a broad cross section of the community, including commerce and industry, local and state government agencies, culture and the arts, trade unions and the professions, welfare, sport and education. The intake is balanced with regard to regional participation, gender, and cultural diversity, but exceptionally high achievement is a pre-requisite. Craig Musson, managing director of WAFEX, a leading exporter of flowers, was one of the inaugural class of Leadership Western Australia, in 2004, and believes it was one of the most valuable courses he has done. “The program focuses on leadership training through a diverse range of speakers that challenge your views on issues facing the state,” he said. “You are encouraged to share your views with others in the program who may have a different position to your own. “The broad range of views from participants from different business backgrounds helps to give you a greater understanding of challenges facing the state.” The program shares much with similar community oriented leadership programs in other states, but places an emphasis on the unique characteristics of WA, such as issues associated with the geography of the state, effective use of our physical resources, and the diverse range of cultures and community groups. The program encourages imaginative and informed thinking about the future of WA and assists people from diverse backgrounds to work together towards positive changes in their social, economic and cultural environment. The ‘community’ aspect of the program is drawn into focus with its commitment to responsible leadership to help to create resourceful and interconnected communities. “One of the most challenging activities of the program was when we spent a night on the streets with the Nyoongyar patrol in Northbridge,” Mr Musson said. “People come from different business and community back-grounds and hold different views and the whole experience challenges your views and helps give you a better understanding of issues.” The program is not just a chance to take a break from the office and network with peers; it is a year-long commitment (from February to November) which involves one full day, a lunch session and one evening a month, as well as three weekends for retreats and field-trips. There is no formal assignment work, but readings are supplied as preparation for each meeting. Upon completing the program, participants become Fellows of Leadership Western Australia and use the experience gained from the program to take on a more active role in the community, mentoring businesses and community groups. To facilitate this post-program input, Leadership Western Australia has established Leadership Skills-bank, which offers the expertise of the ‘fellows’ as a community resource. Mr Musson says the fellows make a commitment to maintain an active role in the community. “Skillsbank is like our alumni,” he said. “I’ve become involved with Greening Australia and in the business we have given staff one day paid leave a month to undertake charity or community work.” Applications for the 2006 intake, limited to around 30 places, closed in September and the program will start in February.

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