Good leadership the key to country town economies

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Why do some country towns survive and thrive, while others decline and die?

According to research at the University of Adelaide, effective leadership at the local level plays a key role in the prosperity of country towns and regions. And for the first time, researchers have defined the necessary ingredients for leadership to succeed in rural areas.

"How leadership is generated and how people create their own futures is of great importance to the economic prosperity and social fabric of regional centres," says Professor Andrew Beer, Director of the Centre for Housing, Urban and Regional Planning (CHURP) at the University of Adelaide.

Professor Beer is lead author of two papers that are aimed at mapping the role of leadership and how country towns can take control of their futures.

"By better understanding the elements of leadership and how it can work effectively, we're presenting a template for any rural community that, we believe, will benefit them in the longer term," he says.

"An important distinction we make is the difference between influence and power. At the local level, a good leader will have a strong influence on the community and will help to shape that community's future. State or regional governments often have power, but they don't have the same influence over a community; they lack the capacity to inspire people in the way local leaders can."

Key characteristics of successful rural leadership includes:

  • Financial independence - such as a farmer or land owner
  • Community assets - such as trust and local knowledge
  • Willingness to collaborate to achieve success
  • Developing and supporting a shared understanding of what is in the best interests for a community
  • A global outlook - a sense of how the community fits into the bigger picture
  • Having the time to perform leadership roles

"Being insular or developing cliques within their own town leads to poor leadership, because ultimately those leaders are only interested in themselves, not in the community as a whole," Professor Beer says.

He says that while parts of Australia's rural landscape are being abandoned, other areas are looking to the future and making plans that will see them thrive.

"For some towns, their economic future is still very much tied to agriculture, but there are other towns that have decided to create a future independent of agriculture, and in some cases this has been very successful," Professor Beer says.

Professor Beer's papers on leadership and rural communities can be found on the CHURP website.


Contact Details

Professor Andrew Beer
Centre for Housing, Urban & Regional Planning
University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 3216
Mobile: 0409 696 485

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762