“If your leadership style looks different to others, that’s ok – It’s how you lead, it’s how you make a difference, it’s how you influence others that matters.”
Brianna Peake is the Chief External Relations Officer at CBH and has been there for ten years. Doing what most farmers daughters do, Brianna worked for CBH during harvest on the weighbridge at Darkan while studying at the university’s Ag Faculty. After four years as Executive Officer of the Liebe Group and a few years of travel in Europe, she looked for a casual job to re-enter the ag industry and saw a job come up for the Grower Service Centre in Perth. This became her first role in Grower and External Relations, the division she now heads up.
Brianna loved that harvest, and after a stint with DailyGrain, she was asked to return to CBH to manage the Grower Service Centre. After leading the team for a year, she made the career transition into Corporate Affairs and said she hasn’t looked back. She has managed their Government and Industry Relations team before being asked to head up the whole division as Chief External Relations Officer over 5 years ago.
Brianna feels hugely privileged to have played a role in the Western Australian agricultural landscape. Having been in the grain industry for almost 20 years, Brianna enjoys the people part of her role, where she gets to engage with diverse groups of people from the country to the metro. “I love being able to nut out stakeholders and the complex issues we get to work on as an industry.”
Growing up in Dalwallinu, Brianna said, “there is a massive amount of freedom of growing up on a farm.” Sharing a few stories, Brianna laughs about the great times she shared with her two sisters. “I feel so lucky that that was my childhood.” Brianna fondly looks back on her past with the ease of her childhood, feeling like she had no pressure, how incredibly humbling and fortunate it all was.
Asking the hard-hitting questions, we wanted to know if her 10-year-old self would have envisaged herself in the corporate leadership position she is in today.
“I don’t ever think I saw myself in a super corporate role – I studied ag science!”
Taking a moment to think, Brianna laughed, “I distinctly remember chasing sheep in 40-degree heat in the summer, and I remember stating to mum and dad at the time. I will never marry a farmer when I grow up, and I didn’t, but somehow ag has always kept me coming back.”
Brianna has been involved with the RRR Network for several years. “It’s an exciting and unique network, and there are significant issues and circumstances that regional Western Australia women are dealing with.” Brianna has seen how well WA RRR women work together in identifying and building awareness around the issues impacting them, such as isolation and limited access to essential services.
Brianna’s leadership philosophy is, “every day you learn more about people’s behaviours, how they operate and how you can adapt yourself as a leader to be able to be cognisant to different styles and types” – highlighting that she recognises great people within the agricultural industry.
“Our jobs as leaders are to harness these skills and work out how to harness this to evolve our industry and communities.”
Change, evolve, risk, and challenge are important words to Brianna and her opinion on leadership in the workplace, reinforcing that we must evolve to do things differently. The landscape rarely stays the same, and therefore neither should our approach. Brianna admits that she has made plenty of mistakes on her leadership journey but always seeks to use them to learn and grow. One piece of advice Brianna shares is that it is essential to take full ownership of your role. “Don’t ever let anyone tell you how to do your job or how it should operate. You are the expert in what you do.”
Brianna believes that you must own it when you take on a role and take responsibility for it to achieve the best results. Brianna reflects, “There have been people within my career that have questioned my ability and skillset.” Brianna states that she takes ownership by confidently reassuring any doubters that she believes in her team and is comfortable delivering to a high standard.
Working in a male-dominated industry, Brianna would love to see more of the industry’s talented women in senior positions like her own or above. “Until you see it, or until you do it, sometimes as women, we don’t recognise those opportunities exist for us.”
“If your leadership style looks different to others, that’s ok – It’s how you lead, it’s how you make a difference, and it’s how you influence others that matters.”
We need to foster leadership more, and it is about giving young men and women the opportunity to step up into these positions. “I want everyone to recognise in the world that women are farmers, women are consultants and women are agronomists, women are CEOs, CFOs just like men are.”
When asked about work-life balance, Brianna describes her life as being not compartmentalised. It is all part of her who and what she does but recognises that this is a very personal way of thinking about it.
“Life is exciting, and as part of my work, I attend many functions outside of normal hours with industry colleagues who are like-minded people and who I enjoy being around.”
Brianna admits, “Sometimes I do feel completely stressed out and overwhelmed,” adding that she does not have a delineated line between work and personal. “If I constantly thought about the work/life balance, I would never win.”
Brianna believes that agriculture is a brilliant industry for women to be in, and she would love to see more female leaders in it. The more there are, the more we fundamentally evolve and see things about our industry differently. It is completely fine to feel out of your comfort zone when starting a new job.
“We have this outstanding network of RRR women, and they are hugely supportive of each other – ask one of them to support you!”
Brianna leaves us with some strong advice on becoming a leader, “Do it, and back yourself.”