“HAVING A GO” LEADS TO POSITION OF GENERAL MANAGER
In recent weeks in our Lessons Learnt series we have heard from Kate McBride and Ben Barlow who both sit on the board of the Western Division of Local Land Services. Staying in that space we now chat to their general manager Erlina Compton, who, at 38, decided to “have a go” and take on the position in an acting role. That, in turn, led to a permanent position and her trajectory, according to Ben, as one of the best leaders he has met.
Meet Erlina Compton
If a job advertisement for General Manager of the Western Division of Local Land Services was written it would probably ask for someone with a passion for the people and places of western NSW; and for someone with a strong background in landholder liaison, strategic planning and environmental commitment. It would probably ask specifically for Erlina Compton.
Erlina grew up around Narrabri in northern NSW, worked with Landcare in Victoria, completed a PhD looking at landholders and decision making, and worked with the NSW Catchment Management Authority. “One of my long-term goals was to work in western NSW and when Local Land Services formed I moved across from the CMA and took up a position as Strategic Planning Manager in Dubbo,” she says.
However, her career was soon to take a different turn. “The General Manager resigned after twelve months,” Erlina says, “and, out of the blue, I was asked to act in the role while they recruited a new one. It was supposed to be for eight weeks and I thought ‘I don’t think I can do this but I’ll have a go and do it for this short amount of time’.”
Complicating Erlina’s new appointment was the fact a major organisational re-structure had just been announced but this gave her a unique opportunity to not only help implement it but suggest changes.
“Ben and other board members have been brilliant to work with,” she says. “They are all landholders – practical people quite free from government processes – who provide real-life guidance and support, and so I started working with the staff and the board to figure out where we would go.”
Erlina found she enjoyed the work and when the permanent position was finally advertised, two years later, she had no hesitation in putting up her hand.
In her role as General Manager Erlina has faced the challenges of working with a diverse group of people, with a limited budget over an enormous area. But with the challenges comes the satisfaction of seeing Local Land Services evolve into a successful model bearing fruit for her landholders.
Western Local Land Services Gilgunnia Cluster Fence open day.
Part of Erlina’s success comes from her relationship with the people she works with.
“Being a good leader is about supporting and growing the people around you,” she says. “It’s about bringing the people, whether it’s your staff or the board or the organisation generally, on the journey.”
Erlina is also inspired by young staff working with her and believes “having a go” is an important trait.
“There are so many young leaders who come forward with fantastic ideas and think about doing things so differently than I would,” she says. “It’s about being brave enough to speak up and share the ideas no matter how different they are.”
From Kate McBride, who joined the LLS board at 18, to Erlina Compton who was General Manager at 38, to Ben Barlow who uses his wealth of experience to nurture and guide, leadership takes many forms, but perhaps the most telling characteristic is the confidence to say yes to challenges and opportunities as they are presented.