Learning to lead — from farm manager to farm executive

How can farmers achieve more of what matters most and stay ahead of the curve?

Successfully operating within a demanding food production system is “driven by how we handle ourselves in complexity,” says Kelly Dobson, a Fairfax, Man., farmer and also president of LeaderShift Inc, a company which supports personal and professional development for business professionals in the ag space.

Dobson says it’s time for farmers to adopt a CEO mindset — one that focuses less on management and more on leadership. He notes that many farmers tend to focus on production and growing things, but as food production increases in complexity, there’s lots of opportunity to increase leadership effectiveness as a way to better bottom line results.

As agriculture and food systems evolve, farmers will be required to be more than really good machinery operators or good day-to-day managers, says Dobson. They’ll need to work with experts, develop strategy, enhance communication, and generally function at a higher level than they’ve ever done before.

To make the shift, a change in mindset is required. In this interview with Real Agriculture’s Bernard Tobin at the recent Farm Business Management Agricultural Excellence Conference, Dobson discusses how he helps his leadership program participants to focus on themselves first. That includes each individual identifying a personal aspect  — characteristic or behaviour — they could improve to increase their overall effectiveness and help create better results inside their business.

Dobson also discussed the challenges farmers face in the transition to leadership. As well, he notes that farm leaders do not have to be all-knowing — the key to successful leadership is the ability to effectively integrate knowledge, insight and technology to enhance your farm operation.

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