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A reflection from ARLP C26 Course Council

4 September 2020

Unprecedented, new normal, self-isolating, quarantine, pivot, lockdown, essential workers, social distancing, we are all in this together, zoom, home-schooling, work from home, the various Karen’s, and you are on mute. Not necessarily new words or phrases for many of us, nonetheless we have used these words and phrases more times in the last five months than possibly any other time in our lives.

The playing field has changed, we are continuously rewriting the rules, and we are trying to plan and forecast in a constantly evolving world at an accelerated rate. Every aspect of life is vastly different, there is no precedence, and there is no way to predict behaviours.

As leaders, the last five months under Covid-19 conditions have been a tumultuous time, to say the least.  For the C26 cohort in the Australian Rural Leadership Program, Covid-19 has thrown up some difficult yet once in a lifetime leadership experiences.

Like prior courses, C26 has had a Course Council appointed from members of the cohort to represent the broader group during the program and assist with the operation of the course program.

Usually, a great opportunity for participants to take an active leadership role and step out of their comfort zone, the current C26 Course Council has been immersed in a unique and dare we say ‘unprecedented’ leadership learning experience.

Many lessons have been learned, but none more so than the importance of regular and transparent communication, particularly when it comes to ARLF program changes and the personal impacts of this on the C26 cohort.

Part of the communication strategy has been to preload the cohort with possible outcomes for certain decisions, to ensure individuals are aware in advance what impact these decisions might have.  The purpose behind this is to reduce the surprise and shock when decisions are made because individuals have been kept informed and have had a chance to provide input and feedback before the final decisions are communicated.

The C26 Course Council has also adopted a very targeted and focussed cohort engagement program, which has seen the delivery of several initiatives designed to keep the cohort engaged in their leadership journey with the ARLF. These engagement initiatives such as personal video leadership blogs and community leader interviews focussing on leadership challenges and learnings through Covid-19 have led to extremely high cohort participation and engagement levels of over 80%.

As we approach our next session in October that will now be delivered virtually, we are disappointed as a cohort, that we cannot come together in Canberra. What we lose is face-to-face engagement, but what we gain is our leadership learning continues as we pivot and adapt.

By Erin Gorter, Kylie Dunstan, Sally Strelitz, Anita Dennis, Graham Lyon, Lachlan Brown & Adam Arndell – ARLP C26