The ARLF leadership blog

CE Matt Linnegar on his farm

How to bounce forward not back

22 November 2021

As Chief Executive of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation, Matt understands the crucial role leadership plays in communities – especially during tough times. 

And he firmly believes those communities that have been successful at building resilience in response to crises have some common traits.  

“Firstly, these communities have a range of individuals that might be doing it tough themselves but are keen to step outside their front gate to help others,” he said.   

“They take time to bring the community together, to invigorate others to participate, and establish social structures to get through difficulties and move forward.”  

“I have seen this firsthand, in the many communities that I have visited and community leaders that I have worked with – there is an underlying drive for success as a whole, rather than just for individuals.”  

Matt added that in his experience leadership is at the heart of social influence, a crucial step in building resilience.  

“Collaborating and advocating is very much people based and I think leadership rests heavily on people. That’s why a leadership approach to resilience is really important.”  

Before joining ARLF, Matt was the National Farmers’ Federation CEO, so he’s had plenty of insight into the impact of dry times. In addition to emergency relief, Matt thinks drought relief should focus on capacity building – especially when not in drought. 

“Drought doesn’t stop and start at the farm gate and it is not a one-in-a-lifetime event,” Matt said.  

“Think about something like Buy from the Bush – born out of a period of crisis trying to do something positive for the community that was in a terrible place, but it has survived well beyond drought and still brings benefits to the communities. To me, that is the perfect example of individuals demonstrating leadership, for the benefit of all.”  

Matt says that resilience in rural Australia means not just bouncing back from drought but bouncing forward. 

“Australia’s regional, rural and remote communities are famous for being able to pull together at times of crisis,” he said, “But what drought resilience looks like for me is not just networks with the ability to support each other in hard times, but networks that can work together on a future they’d like to see when not in drought.” 

“While knowledge, technology and the right tools are all important, for me, it’s all about building individual and community capability and networks to place themselves in the strongest possible position to bounce forward.”