Tag Archives: Leadership

Leadership is an absolutely humanistic element sought in all areas of our lives: school, church, work, family, community and government. A few years ago, an interview with author Simon Sinek went viral on YouTube because it was so relatable. He explained how 35 years of raising kids to think that everyone is a winner, in conjunction with the explosion of social media and digital technology, has had some detrimental side effects to the workplace. The impact has left employers feeling the need to step up and find ways to reverse some of the effects. But the greater question is, does this go beyond just the workplace and will this lead to a leadership crisis everywhere?

There is certainly an exhaustive list of the benefits we’ve received from the digital revolution of the last four decades. But like the rapid-fire disclaimer of all those side effects listed in the ad for the latest anxiety medication (which would cause more anxiety I would think!), we should be aware of where humanistic elements are essential and may be harmed from the reliance on technology.

Sinek explains, awarding every child regardless of achievement has created a lack of confidence and a sense of entitlement. Addiction to social media and gaming has starved a generation of person-to-person interactions, relationship building, imagination and allowing their minds to wander and create. Every technology which makes our lives easier also creates an expectation of instant gratification.

Sarah Moulton of Human Capital Leadership Institute points out that there are four leadership traits that cannot be replaced by artificial intelligence: reassuring communication, human touch, establishing rapport and creativity. This means they need to be cultivated in us…the humans!

Reassuring communication is critical because technology cannot teach or convey hope, essentially. The human touch relates to problem-solving based upon the needs of a unique individual or group; dedication to seeing the solution through. Establishing rapport creates trust and empathy which is needed for people to work successfully towards the same goal. Moulton references Eric Wahl’s explanation of creativity by saying, “Intellect without intuition makes for a smart person without impact.”

At Arizona Farm Bureau we see great value in youth leadership programs such as the Arizona FFA and Arizona 4-H. These organizations provide opportunities to both urban and rural youth and instill the value of hard work, responsibility, leadership, ingenuity, problem-solving and persistence through a myriad of programs offered to fit all sorts of interests. Aren’t these the qualities of leadership we all want to guide the future?

It is true that the Age of Social Media has shifted our axis and we don’t yet know what greatness and cost will result, but I don’t believe Sinek has spent much time around Blue Jackets (FFA students) or the 4-H Creed. Believe me, there is very little instant gratification in agriculture, as those of us involved in it know. These youth are confident because they have earned their reward and they must interact with their peers to get the job done. Their minds have been engaged and broadened through the many projects the programs offer. As long as these programs remain robust with our support, there will be no leadership crisis in agriculture or elsewhere.

The people of Farm Bureau have always made it an organization of distinction. Widely seen as a popular movement to advocate for agriculture and rural families when it was formed, the way we communicate today has meant a return to those roots, or perhaps more accurately, grassroots.

Today, public policy issues running the gamut from transportation and labor to trade and regulations are won or lost in our state and national capitals based on the personal stories shared by individual farmers and ranchers. Facts are still the foundation, but Farm Bureau’s farmers and ranchers communicating how issues are felt at the farm gate is paramount. And that, in a nutshell, is Farm Bureau’s value proposition.

The grassroots structure of Farm Bureau, from the American Farm Bureau Federation through the state and county organizations, is unmatched in the world of advocacy for agriculture. Farm Bureau is arguably the most effective organization of farmers and ranch families in the world, and it all goes back to the commitment of individual grassroots members and leaders.

I have seen this in varying degrees over the last 34 years as a member of the Farm Bureau staff. That time included a lot of farm tours, committee meetings and annual conventions. But what sticks out the most, and always will, is the personal stories of how issues affect Farm Bureau families at the farm and ranch level – whether it was a sweet corn grower in Rhode Island, a nursery producer in California or a wheat farmer in Kansas.

Over the years, I have had the privilege of writing countless speeches, columns and news releases. I have logged years of service with some of the most capable professional staff members in agriculture at the county, state and national levels of Farm Bureau. During that time, the organization has grown in terms of the application of modern communications strategy. As a result, the media profile of AFBF has been greatly elevated. That is more a testament to the AFBF Communications Team than it is to me. One constant throughout that time, however, has been the fact that Farm Bureau is fueled by grassroots passion that radiates from the land, the community and the balance sheet.

Unlike many organizations that try to wrap so-called grassroots campaigns around a hollow façade, with Farm Bureau there is never any doubt about whether the intent of grassroots Farm Bureau policy is being represented. Like all organizations, or for that matter any aspect of society these days, Farm Bureau has its share of critics. Due to its dominant profile in the world of agricultural policy advocacy, Farm Bureau is a big target for those who disagree, whether for reasons of ideology or envy. No organization is perfect, but when it comes to representing the will of its members in the public policy arena, Farm Bureau is unsurpassed and its commitment to members is unrivaled.

One thing that sets Farm Bureau as an organization apart from nearly all others is that if you are a farmer or rancher and you do not agree with a policy, you can work to change it. That does not mean you will automatically succeed, but Farm Bureau’s policy-setting process can be efficacious for anyone with an idea to make agriculture and rural America better and the ability to convince others to follow. And that is why Farm Bureau invests in its members, making sure they have the leadership and communication skills to answer the bell no matter when it rings.

As I sign off my duty as executive director of communications for AFBF, and a career that has encompassed a full one-third of AFBF’s 100 years of existence, I stand confident in the organization’s ability to endure through both good times and bad, just as it has since 1919. Even during the very serious and unprecedented challenges facing farmers and ranchers in 2019, the organization remains effective, responsive and the respected Voice of Agriculture when it comes to public policy advocacy.

While I look forward to a new professional opportunity with the United Soybean Board, I will fondly recall all the advances to agriculture Farm Bureau has helped fuel during my tenure. And for that reason, I look forward to many more years of Farm Bureau involvement, as a member who will continue to be #FarmBureauProud. It’s been my honor to serve.