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Leadership and the Change Agent Network

Working in the alcohol and drug field is a very rewarding experience, but is not without its challenges. Given the stigma associated with addiction, both within the community as well as other areas of health, the focus on law enforcement rather than treatment, and the highly politicised debate related to alcohol and drug policy at all levels of government, it isn’t surprising that at times we can feel frustrated and ineffectual. But it’s these challenges that highlight the importance of effective leadership within the alcohol and drug field, and the need to build a cohort of leaders across the sector that can influence local communities and government, and promote evidence-based systems and treatment models so that no one falls through the gaps, or feel that they cannot access help.

But what is effective leadership? Previous work at Turning Point, based on interviews with existing leaders and a review of the evidence, identified leaders as having a vision and seeing beyond the status quo; communicating and consulting widely; empowering others; communicating clearly; being courageous and prepared to take risks; inspiring and fostering a desire in others to be involved; facilitating positive change and sharing their experience; being optimistic and hopeful, tenacious, persistent and decisive; passionate and enthusiastic about the alcohol and drug field; and being role models for others who they encourage and support.

Such ideas are prominent throughout the business literature, which also emphasises the importance of self-awareness and self-directedness, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, when to get help and support, and how to problem solve and get things done. Another key attribute is being socially aware, understanding social networks and key influencers, and how to recruit key people within your network to support your vision.

As the first state to provide a leadership program for emerging leaders within the alcohol and drug field, I am delighted with the Victorian Government’s support of the Change Agent Network. This program provides a platform for the leaders of tomorrow to build the skills and attributes of effective leadership, as well as developing key networks that will facilitate the implementation of evidence-based policy and practice across Victoria. With the expertise of Leadership Victoria on offer, as well as access to existing senior leaders in the field, I am sure that the program will not only support the development of a cohort of effective leaders within the alcohol and drug sector, but also an important resource for Australia.

– Prof Dan Lubman

Director of Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre and Professor of Addiction Studies and Services at Monash University

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