Their Stories

Communication is key for leaders

30 January 2018

Adam Knapp, a Policy Advisor on Environment and Natural Resource Management with the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF), expected to leave his comfort zone when he signed up for the TRAIL program for emerging leaders, and it didn’t disappoint.

“For me it was a good opportunity to remove myself from my work space for a period of time and go into the unknown,” the Brisbane-based leader says.

“I think that’s the exciting part of it, not knowing quite what to expect and pushing yourself to a limit that you’re not used to. Particularly for me the physical side of getting out into a totally different environment and working in a team in a totally different sense was great.

“Working in an office-based job, you usually see your team within white walls, but out there it’s quite a different way to pick up new skills.”

A career in agriculture may not seem like an obvious fit with Adam’s major in social psychology, but his interest in applied change management is a thread right through his career in Australia’s indigenous sector and seafood industry, and in almost ten years spent with QFF.

“Going out and talking to people about the benefits of implementing positive changes is something I’ve always enjoyed.” Adam says.

He is currently working on a significant Great Barrier Reef project that combines the practical and policy elements of his work.

“TRAIL did give me a few more tools,” Adam reflects. “It gave me a bit more definition and understanding about who I am and what kind of leadership style I have—I try and take a fairly considered approach. That’s been highly useful,” he says.

“When I came back from TRAIL at end of April last year I was mindful of having a good speaking/listening balance in communicating with my team. I also got into framing my writing a bit differently than I had in the past, that’s something I’ve picked up from TRAIL and kept working on.”

Communication is a vital part of Adam’s current work.

“I manage a project with nine different subcontracts. They’re a mix of industry and natural resource management groups. What industries are trying to achieve can be a little bit different to natural resource management group objectives. With my role, it’s all about fostering partnerships and collaboration and shared understanding.”

While representing Queensland Agriculture, Adam says his role involves keeping multiple views in balance and preparing responses in the event of a change in government (or reelection) so as to avoid being reactionary.

“Going forward, the vegetation management issue is a very hot topic in the state. I’ll be representing agriculture’s views on this, and it always takes a lot of conversations to make the process work.”

It’s in encouraging healthy dialogue and managing change that Adam sees his future contribution as a leader.

“What I’d like to ensure happens better is that the divide between urban and rural is bridged a bit more. The agriculture sector does a good job trying to sell the importance of what they do in this country. But I also think there’s a lack of appreciation about where the products and things we eat, consume and wear, actually come from.

“We need to ensure that communication never drops away, because agriculture has a good story to tell and it’s a solid industry. It’s the foundation of the country in my belief. We need to keep showing the positives.”

It was while working with former QFF CEO Ruth Wade (former executive director of the Rice Growers’ Association of Australia, another long-time supporter of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation) that Adam was encouraged to apply for TRAIL.

“We had a bit of a talk and she suggested I look into it because it’s a potential stepping stone to the Australian Rural Leadership Program, and because I was interested in building networks and meeting people from different parts of the country working in agriculture—sharing stories and learning from each other.” Adam says.

“There’s a lot of genuine people within agriculture and people who have a lot of passion. The diversity of the sector is just incredible and the personalities and cultural influences within some of the sectors is quite an interesting space,” he says.

With ambitions to “manage a bigger team and to test myself a bit more in leadership,” Adam says he’s confident the network he has already made through TRAIL will prove a valuable resource.

More information

Read more about TRAIL: emerging leaders program.

Photograph

Foundation board member Dr Anna Carr with Adam at the graduation ceremony.