Farmers who choose to lead have an advantage over those who just manage.
Originally published at Farm Futures in their November/December 2022 issue.
Old employee management and leadership techniques can be a bottleneck to farm growth and profitability.
There comes a time on most farms when the founders cannot do all the work. They need the help of family and/or employees. It’s at that point the farmer must follow the principles of leadership over management.
- Have you ever been frustrated with your employees, a family member, or even yourself? We all have.
- Do you sometimes feel the “people” side of the business is getting in the way of farming?
- That keeping employees on task and motivated is taking too much time?
- Do your employees follow your lead because they have to or because they are inspired by your vision?
- Do you spend most of your time managing the whirlwind or leading?
Management is to control a group in order to achieve an objective.
Leadership is the ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute to the success of the farm.
Management and leadership may seem close in definition, but they are miles apart in practice. The results, over time, are profoundly different.
When we broach the topic of leadership during coaching farm owners, there tends to be some unease. The word makes folks uncomfortable. But I believe much of the discomfort comes from the idea that leadership only comes in one form. That leadership requires rousing speeches and storming the beaches like Patton.
Research has shown leadership is not for a select few with special qualities. It can be learned. I tend to prefer the definitions of James Kouzes and Barry Posner. They present five core principles of effective leadership.
Here are the five best practices of a leader.
How many resonate with you?
1. Leaders model the traits and behaviors they expect from others.
They treat everyone with respect, manage conflict, and are good listeners. They set clear expectations on how the work gets done and how people interact with each other.
2. Leaders share the vision.
Leaders passionately believe in their vision and inspire others to join. They chart a clear path on how to achieve it. Employees will become more engaged if they can see the goal and how they contribute.
3. Leaders challenge the status quo.
They are not stuck in the past, and always look for better ways to do things. They challenge themselves and encourage others to dispute or test their ideas. Leaders often encourage employees at the bottom to bring their ideas forward for consideration.
4. Leaders enable and encourage others to act.
They don’t dictate every last detail to the employees. Instead, they spend time upfront coaching and training employees to work independently. They are careful and deliberate about who they hire and train so the employees can handle extra authority. Leaders set high standards and goals, then allow employees to work independently.
5. Leaders have a heart, and it shows in how they encourage and motivate everyone around them.
Leaders are quick to compliment and recognize hard work. They celebrate the successes and accomplishments of the farm and those who contribute.
The farmer who chooses to lead has a competitive advantage over those that manage. Where are your leadership skills right now? Where can you improve today?
As the leader of your farm, you have a great opportunity and responsibility. You set the pace, the tone, and the direction of your business.
It’s your choice how you lead and everyone else’s choice if they will join you on the journey.