Farming certainly has become more complex. Today’s farm leaders often spend more time working as the CEO of their farm than as a laborer within the operation.
The farm CEO has certain responsibilities in the operation that no one else does – such as business planning for the future, allocating the farm’s financial resources and leading others toward a shared vision for the future.
Farm leaders really do have a lot on their plates. Their responsibilities require learning and building skills in a number of different areas that we might not have had experience with before.
Leading and learning
Working intentionally to build our own leadership skills does several things for both us and our operations. Obviously, it increases our own repertoire of skills – and allows us to use those skills for the benefit of the operation.
It also shows the next generation that leadership qualities and skills – and taking time to work on them – are important. This is similar to the idea that “more is caught than taught.” When the next generation see the leaders devoting time to working on leadership, they will regard it as important.
Ultimately, if you want to build and leave a lasting legacy on your farm, leadership needs to be the cornerstone. And it starts right now with you, the current leader.
Working on yourself and your leadership skills helps ensure that the next generation will observe what you’re doing. They also will get the advantage of learning what you’ve learned directly from you. The skills you’ve practiced and developed on your own are passed on when you train them.
Where to work
What are some of the most important leadership skills for today’s farm leaders? There are differences from what was required to be a successful farm leader in the past. Here are a few that come to mind:
- Human resources and people management. Today’s farm leader must be a skillful manager of employees. This requires strong communication skills and a clear understanding of what motivates people.
- Landlord and lender relations. Every farm leader needs to be aware of who needs to be hearing from them regularly to maintain a strong relationship – and how best to communicate their farm’s current “story.”
- Long-term thinking and business planning. This means working to set a vision for the future of the farm business and then breaking down how the operation is going to get there. Goal and priority setting, as well as careful management of a long-term plan are cornerstones of this area.
- Preparing the next generation. One of the tasks of a leader is to eventually work themselves out of a job – because they’ve prepared the next leader so well. Create a plan with the next leader for how they will prepare and demonstrate their readiness to lead over time.
What steps are you taking to “up” your leadership game? Get a plan in place with the specific skills you’ll work on and resources to use. Farm leaders have a range of learning options available to them today, with some aimed for business leaders in general and others geared specifically for the farm.
One free resource is the Modern Farm Business podcast. Each week, the podcast features a different topic to help farm leaders build their leadership skills, with guest experts coming on the show regularly as well.
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.