‘Irish farm leadership skills aren’t fit for purpose’

Leadership development is a fundamental requirement at all levels within Irish agriculture, according to Nuffield Scholar Karen Brosnan.

She made this point while speaking at the Northern Ireland Nuffield Spring Conference, held recently week at the Agri Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) research centre, near Hillsborough in Co. Down.

“At the level of the family farm improved leadership skills can facilitate better decision making processes by all those involved,” she said.

“And this theme can be reflected in the context of farm business partnerships, the development of limited companies within Irish agriculture and the effectiveness of farming representatives sitting on the boards of agri co-ops and other farming organisations.”

Brosnan holds strongly to the view that steps must now be taken to establish an Institute of Leadership and management within the Irish agri-sector. And she foresees the Agricultural Trust and ICOS having key roles in making all of this happen.

“I visited Canada, New Zealand and Australia prior to finalising my Nuffield report she said.

“In all three countries I saw, at first hand, the emphasis placed by the main farmer organisations in making it compulsory for all producer directors and board members to have an officially recognised qualification in farm leadership.

“And I firmly believe that such an approach should be replicated in Ireland.”

In response to a question from the floor Brosnan confirmed that if her proposals were implemented then all future IFA office bearers and co-op board members could only put their names forward for election or appointment if they had the required leadership qualifications.

Brosnan grew up on a Co. Kerry dairy farm along with five brothers so was immersed in farm life from a young age. Today she is a self-employed management consultant, facilitator, and executive coach in the public sector, in agriculture, the foreign service, in education and  the private sector.

Her work ranges from undertaking organisational reviews, strategic planning, change management and workforce performance and quality systems, to management and leadership development, team building and executive coaching.

In particular, she has worked with farmers to develop entrepreneurial, business management and leadership skills through community development programmes and discussion groups.

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