People Power: A time for leaders
By Robert Milligan
When excellent management isn’t enough
In the 1970s it became evident that hard work was not enough. With increasing size and competitiveness of dairy farms, conditions meant excellent management was necessary for success. Dairy producers became exceptional managers of cows, crops, finances and marketing.
Conditions are changing again. The challenges of business size and competitiveness are being supplemented with increased turbulence, a changing workforce and an interconnected global world. Now, excellent management is not enough. Business success is increasingly requiring great leadership.
According to Marcus Buckingham, “Great leaders rally people to a better future.” Let’s dissect this quote:
• Great leaders: Great leaders have very different personalities and strengths. One thing they have in common is followers – employees – who follow because they want to, not because they have to. Leaders with employees who follow only because they have to rely largely on the power of their position. Great leaders develop committed, willing followers by articulating a better future, developing trusting relationships and producing results.
• rally: Compare “leaders rally” to “managers decide” and you can see the difference between management and leadership. Rally is about emotions: passion, inspiration and motivation. Leader work to created a dedicated team eager to fulfill the mission/vision.
Rally also requires performance. To gain and sustain a passionate commitment, the leader must continually modify and implement a winning strategy. The leader must be much more externally focused, learning about the local, industry, national and global environment, identifying potential threats and opportunities.
• people: Leaders not only understand themselves, their own unique talents, skills, tendencies and challenges. Leaders understand each person is a unique human being. Leaders recognize the workforce is changing: Gen Xer and Millennial generations are much less willing to work at a job that does not have meaning.
• better future: Think about the great leaders through history and in your life. From our Founding Fathers defining democracy to President Kennedy envisioning landing a man on the moon, each defined a “better future.” Even dictator’s promise a better future for their people. Think of a teacher who envisioned a better future for you. Business leaders portray this “better future” by articulating the mission/vision for the business.
Become a better leader
Effective leadership development requires planning, continuous learning and commitment. The best development plan is unique to each individual, but will include the following four parts:
• Learn about yourself. Great leaders are self-aware, recognizing and understanding their own uniquenesses, tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. You can learn about yourself with objective self-observation and introspection. There are also a variety of exercises. I especially like two very simple self-disclosure exercises that determine one’s leadership and conflict styles. I use them with my clients and in my workshops.
• Learn about others. Leadership requires trusting interpersonal relationships with those we lead. Great relationships require knowing those we lead as individuals – not just as partners, employees, etc. Listening and asking questions are two skills each of us can improve. Improvement will not always be easy; using these skills requires changing our behaviors.
• Learn about leadership. With cows and crops, we are familiar with the respected public and private experts in these fields. Leadership is no different. Business schools and private organizations conduct research and develop leadership materials. You can access books, articles, webcasts (many free) and workshops.
• Learn by expanding your network and broadening your areas of knowledge. Leaders force themselves to continually step outside their comfort zone. Leadership responsibilities require that you learn more about the world around you. Maybe you send your herd manager to the next nutrition conference, and you attend a conference on the global dairy industry, changing consumer food tastes or climate change. Leaders also network with other leaders to learn and observe. Where do the leaders in your local community – the mayor, the superintendent of schools, the presidents of local businesses – meet, network and learn? Perhaps you should join. In addition to learning and growth, you would be a positive representative of the dairy industry.
You likely are a reluctant leader. To enable your dairy farm to succeed, you must heed the call of your business to rally your people to a better future.
• Robert Milligan is senior consultant with Dairy Strategies LLC, and Professor Emeritus, Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University. To contact Milligan or subscribe to his e-newsletter LearningEdge Monthly, email firstname.lastname@example.org.