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Be bold, be curious, be yourself


“I was whole heartedly outside of my comfort zone – yet it was an experience I will draw from for years to and the relationships built I hope will last a lifetime.” Emily Wandel.


Emily Wandel (centre) pictured with Rick Sawer, ARLF Director (left) and John Maher, CEO goFARM Australia P/L (right).

When applying for the opportunity to take part in the highly accredited, bespoke Australian Agribusiness Leadership Program (AALP), I was asked what challenges I see the agriculture sector facing in the next two to three years.


Immediately, my mind went to land values and succession. In my view, it’s a challenge I see coming to the forefront over the next few years.


While our industries are often aware of their respective threats, approaches to risk mitigation in agriculture continue to be fragmented.


When it comes to land values and property sales, many farmers’ decisions are based on an emotional pull, rather than the long-term profitability of the acquisition.


Clients are making the decision based on scale – looking to expand and grow but without assessing the productivity of that piece of dirt. 


The flow on effect is longer term succession and farm growth are inadvertently impacted. Larger farmers keep bidding-up-big to continue to grow while the smaller growers get left behind; yet still with the need to expand to remain viable. 


As generations come onto the farm, the pressure to increase scale rises forcing decisions over calculated decision making.


Having recently completed the AALP program I have also had time to consider the challenges of the disconnect between the community, the agricultural industry and the consumer.


The program really got me thinking.


Not only did it push my thinking around challenges the industry faces, it also opened my mind to pushing the boundaries of my leadership style, trying new and different approaches and really working on self-awareness.


The land down under


The world’s sixth largest country, Australia is made up of more than 769 million hectares of land.


Of this, Australian agriculture accounts for 55 per cent of Australian land use and 25 per cent of water extractions.


That’s a whopping 427 million hectares used (excluding timber production) and 3,113 gigalitres used by agriculture.


Land is used for a mix of Australian agricultural activity, determined by often volatile and high risk factors such as climate, water availability, soil type and proximity to markets.


Livestock grazing is the most widespread, occurring in most areas of Australia, while cropping and horticulture are generally limited to specific areas along the coast lines.



I spent the week working with some of the most incredible like-minded people, all experienced in their leadership roles yet open to finding new ways and a better approach to being the best version of themselves.


This was all underpinned with a clear focus on driving positive change in Australian agriculture and the communities in which we live and work.


I built connections in a week that may have taken me years in my workplace. 


No such thing as a cookie cutter leader


Through the program I learnt there is no such thing as “cookie cutter leadership”. There is no right or wrong was to lead - we each have our own unique approach, ideas and perceptions. This diversity of thought is why we continue to see a shift in the standard seats around the table.


Historically the agricultural industry has been a male-dominated space, which excitingly is shifting.


We are seeing more women of all ages and experiences open to working within agriculture, in all facets – banking included.  We need to embrace this as an organisations and as an industry and build on the incredible talent ready to raise their hands.


If we as a collective keep an open mind and an open door, inviting the diversity of thought to our tables we will all benefit. Our people will feel empowered and our communities will see the value.


Key take-outs


Diversity of thought


It is how we as leaders utilise both our skills and those of others around us to add value and influence a positive outcome.


Diversity of thought is our strength and a diverse network of people is an advantage to our businesses.


Clear values


Values are core to the self-awareness process.


If we don’t have a clear understanding of what they are for ourselves and don’t truly step up and into these, how can we authentically lead others? 


Curiosity is key


Lean in with curiosity when uncomfortable. If there are unknowns or if you are unclear, be curious in your thought and approach.




Build your tribe. Surround yourself with people who are open to a shared voice, and will support you – rise or fall.


Maximise the resources you have in your circle – utilise others’ skills to empower them. 


And if I could share one piece of advice to other aspiring leaders?


If the opportunity is there, be bold and take it on with an open mind. The outcome may surprise you.



At ANZ, our investment in our people is paramount. We promote curiosity and like to do things differently. As the need grows to respond faster to changing customer and industry requirements, our focus is on energising our people, ensuring teams are engaged and learning and working in ways that are empowering.


Investing in our leaders and ensuring they have access to a range of resources and opportunities to enable growth and expertise is vital.


As the need grows to respond faster to changing customer and industry requirements, our focus is on energising our people, ensuring teams are engaged and learning and working in ways that are empowering.


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