Top of Mind: A Leadership Challenge

April 5, 2011 10:23 PM

The 4"x6" business book that recently arrived in my mailbox may be tiny in size, but it offers huge insights for farmers. Each page of 50 Lessons on Leading for Those with Little Time for Reading conveys words of wisdom and uses playful graphics to communicate lessons on leadership, management, human resources and self-improvement.

The author, Steve Boehlke, is the founder of SFB Associates, a global consulting practice that advises senior executives on strategies for developing leaders with integrity. His clients have included Cargill, ExxonMobil, General Mills and Hewlett-Packard. Boehlke encourages readers to open the book at random and ponder a different statement each week. Here are a few of his leadership lessons that I think apply to the business of farming:

  • Leadership is setting the course beyond the horizon.
  • Leadership is passing the ball when you want to take the shot.
  • Leadership is making plans, not imposing them.

Farm Journal succession planning expert Kevin Spafford is convinced that one of the biggest detriments to farm succession is not preparing the next generation for leadership. As we work with young producers in our Tomorrow’s Top Producer program, I see a need for mentors in the farm community—experienced farmers who are willing to share what they know and guide the next generation. Our cover producer, Mike Pitts, was lucky enough to have found those mentors. Read more.

What are you doing to lead your business with vision and integrity? Are you clearly and concisely communicating your goals with employees? I challenge you to ponder how you might lead in a new way. Pick up Boehlke’s book for inspiration.

No Negativity. Last week I received a phone call from a farmer about the March issue of Top Producer and, in particular, the article "Big Battle Brewing." His point of contention was not the article itself—which dealt with the fact that high commodity prices have created demand for acres from all crops—but the connotation our headline made about the industry. He said it made it seem like corn farmers dislike cotton growers and soybean producers.

"How are consumers supposed to trust our industry when it looks like we are fighting each other?" he asked. I completely agree. While that headline may have grabbed a few more eyeballs, it sent a subliminal message that farmers are pitted against farmers, something that couldn’t be further from the truth and a message that could easily be perpetuated by anti-agriculture interests.

I’ve made a decision to try to lead my peers in farm media by not using negative headlines. It may seem a simple act, but effective leadership is often developed through small steps.


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