Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Leaving a strong legacy

Sometimes it takes a while for a leader’s legacy to become clear. There have been many instances where political and business leaders not particularly appreciated when in office were later judged to have shown foresight unrecognised during their tenure.

With Fonterra’s past chair Sir Henry van der Heyden, who sits at the board table for the last time at the end of this month, this most definitely isn’t the case. His legacy is a strong, fast-moving co-operative which has come to play a pivotal role in the New Zealand economy, at a time when the meat industry is still floundering around discussing improvements to organisational structures when the time for action was years ago.

While the path to form Fonterra and get it to where it is today wasn’t always a smooth one, temporary tensions were well worth the final result. And while structure is important, the people heading up the chosen model are even more so and dairying has been well served by the single-mindedness of its leaders, with van der Heyden no exception.

Getting it right was always more important than getting changes over the line, from which the meat industry could also learn a valuable lesson.

Asked about what he thought was the solution to present meat industry woes van der Heyden was quick to say young leaders were required to chart a new direction, get agreement and move towards a brighter future.

Let’s hope too that there are plenty of just such people on dairy farms all over the country, ready to follow his fine example.

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