This paper discusses the importance of leadership talent in the rail industry in Australia. Like many other countries around the world, rail is troubled by its ability to attract new talent as older leaders with specialized knowledge retire. This study sought to identify whether the sector is making the most of the talent already existing within, knowing the barriers faced in attracting new industry entrants, and questions what can be done to strengthen current approaches to developing leaders. In exploring the meaning of leadership talent, from a skills based perspective with three levels of leaders, blended methods using semi-structured interviews and a survey were utilized. The study is important because it focuses on the people aspects of the industry, a little researched area of rail that has major implications for how employees are engaged and retained. The findings identified a certain mindset, culture and approach about leadership talent in organizations that overlooked the heterogeneity of rail organization populations, precluding certain groups of people from becoming leaders. The project identified that leadership and other soft skills required in the rail industry are both under researched, and often undervalued, for the impact that they can have on performance and productivity of companies. There are key messages from this study for both organizations as well as inspiring rail industry leaders.
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