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Three skills that take your leadership to the next level

phototechno/iStock/Getty Images Yellow area that says leadership with several white arrows all going right
Working on these areas now will pay dividends later.

Farmers often wear many different “hats” when it comes to their work. On any given day, a farmer can find themselves acting as operations manager to agronomist to equipment troubleshooter and more.

But for those who own and operate a farm, the “hat” of leader is probably the most critical – and has the biggest impact on the operation. For most farmers, the leadership role – and skills it requires – may not be what they’ve focused on for the majority of their career. Many farmers are much more focused on honing production-related skills early on in their career, as they rightly should.

Take the leap

Upping your own leadership game and skills can look a bit different, however. It takes some intentional effort in a direction that can appear like it’s taking you out of the realm of production-focused agriculture work.

Making this leap to work on key leadership skills you need to lead your farm is so important. Because you as the leader touch so many aspects of the operation in such a critical way, your leadership skills are probably the largest factor in the level of success your operation may achieve.

Consider these three

There are three major areas that many farm leaders have found important in upping their leadership game: dealing with people, strategy and finances.

  1. People. There’s no doubt about it – for farms that want to grow in terms of size, complexity or additional revenue sources, it usually means adding more people. Whether that’s bringing in the next generation or hiring new employees, the farm leader can find themselves responsible for leading and managing more people than they anticipated – or ever wanted to! Furthering your leadership game in this area can mean learning communication skills and doing some work to learn human resources (HR) management and other skills associated with managing employees. Since every person is unique and has unique styles of communicating, there’s a lot to learn when it comes to leading people. You could start by reading the book The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard.
  2. Strategy. Thinking about and creating good business strategy on the farm goes beyond putting together a plan for the upcoming year. It’s about thinking further into the future and asking good questions about what you want your operation to be like, looking at the environment and factors that impact your operation, and considering how you’re going to move your farm from where you are right now to where you want to be. You can read books or attend leadership seminars on strategy to learn more about how to think more strategically as you lead your operation and how to put together creative, sound strategy. You might read Good Strategy Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt to learn more about this.
  3. Finances. Every farmer who moves into a leadership or management role in the operation has to think – probably every single day – about how to best manage the farm’s finances. Time learning more about the type of financial terminology bankers use and how to set up and monitor metrics for the operation is well spent. The book Financial Intelligence by Karen Berman and Joe Knight can be helpful with this. Learning how to create and use projections is also key. You can use marketing scenarios in your projections to help with real-time marketing decisions, too. Learn about our marketing solutions and get in touch with a market advisor for ideas on how to get started.
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 
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