Understanding of leadership turned on its head for Ashley

Ashley Fraser is a grain farmer and seed processor from Rutherglen in north-east Victoria, and is now managing director of Baker’s Seed, the family company that he has worked with for the last 22 years. He is also involved in the family farm business. He has held numerous positions in the seed industry, including his current role as Australian Seed Authority Director. In 2013, he became a Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) Grains Councillor, and in 2019 he was elected as the VFF Grains President.

It’s rare that skills acquired during a leadership program make the difference between life and death, but as an active Country Fire Association member during the Victoria bushfires of 2019-20, Ashley Fraser said his ability to communicate clearly at the height of the crisis – thanks to his ARLP experience – was priceless.

“Communication is essential within the organisation and at a local brigade level, and this was reinforced by the isolation during the fire, being in a life-threatening, catastrophic situation,” Ashley said.

“The inability to communicate effectively has the potential to be disastrous so I’m very grateful to have had those core abilities when I was on the fire front.”

Five years prior to the weeks and months battling fires, Ashley successfully applied for a GRDC supported place on the ARLP – a process that turned his understanding of leadership on its head and rebuilt it from the ground up.

“I learned how to lead from behind and came to realise that that the greatest quality of a leader is the ability to allow others to develop and use their skills,” he said.

“That takes empathy and really engaged listening and up until I was given the opportunity to learn these skills, these definitely weren’t things that came naturally to me.

“I can be a forthright and dogmatic person who finds it hard to change direction but that is a recipe for failure.”

Ashley credits the ARLP with improving his ability to allow for change based on input from others, and developing the skills needed to build trust within teams.

“We can get thrust into leadership positions at any point in our lives. For me, involvement with the Grains Council led to involvement with the VFF and the opportunities continued from there,” he said.

“In these roles and others, I’m able to use my ARLP experience and acquired skills constantly, as well as in the management of the family’s properties and seed processing business, and for the benefit of my community through the Country Fire Authority.”

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