Opinion: Leading communities is a team sport

Walking into an empty MCG is a surreal experience – not for the empty seats, but to think, at one point in history, a group of people decided this would be the premier spot in Victoria to come together for some of the greatest events we will remember and made it stick for more than 160 years.

It’s that level of strategic thinking that the Ballarat community demands from its leaders, and it’s exactly why we gathered there for the recent Victorian Regional Community Leadership Program Combined Program Day.

For the first time ever, regional Victoria’s 10 community leadership programs came together to connect, engage and learn with each other.

We heard about the prosperity of regional Victoria, the framework to be able to use that success in our local areas, and how to tell the story of the why we call the Ballarat region home.

State Regional Development Minister Jaala Pulford kicked things off by showing how the visitor economy continues to play a large role in regional Victoria by using online technologies to make decisions on where to travel.

Ms Pulford shared with us how the state government plans to upskill local operators to take advantage of the growing number of overseas travellers, with the single aim of getting people to stay longer.

But all good things must come from a plan – a well thought out Idea, then Developed, Evaluated and Actioned or an IDEA, as Jason Clarke from Minds at Work put to us.

Mr Clarke really challenged us to recognise the conflict between fiction and reality.

The affliction that local leaders sometimes have is if we continue only doing the same old things as they’ve always been done – just because they work now – we must continue to ask ourselves: do we stay at world best? Or move into world’s next?

Mr Clarke left us with some wisdom that allowed the group to continue to add value long after our program has finished, and continue to push for those big-picture projects that will set our community up for the future.

He reminded us that a “no” to an idea isn’t a final answer, it’s just a request for more information.

Once we have our big ideas all worked out, the final piece came down to storytelling, which was the overarching theme of the day. Shawn Callahan from Anecdote taught us how to best put our communities’ stories to work.

Being able to walk around the room and engage with participants from other community leadership programs – and listen to just how similar but different their local challenges were – was humbling.

It showed that the Ballarat region is very healthy in some areas, but needs continued work in others.

The final takeaway was the discussion relating to the concept of place by Frank Kelloway and Dr Daniel Terrill from Deloitte.

A place is considered somewhere multiple communities come together, and solidified by conditions where the economic and social elements of a region are fully meeting the expectations of the people in it.

So, what’s the challenge set to us as future leaders of the Ballarat region?  

What is that we are we doing, as a team, to continue to make this place worth living?

Damian Hetherington is a participant in Leaders Forum, Leadership Ballarat & Western Region’s annual experiential learning program for emerging leaders. Applications are now open for Leaders Forum 2018. For more information, visit the website at www.lbwr.org.