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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Management Leadership Is Not Optional, It Is Essential!

Farm Business Management Update, October 1998

By Mike Roberts of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

This article is the first in a series I am writing about business management. The primary focus of my job is farm business management. Past experience, study, and research insist the principals of farm business management are no different than any other business. In order for a farm business to succeed, it must maintain a clear vision of where it's going. The business must have a plan with clearly defined goals and objectives. Internal (administrative, labor, production, overhead) and external (transportation, marketing, and retailing) activities should be clearly defined by a good record keeping system. Unremitting evaluation of the records generated by the system should be a primary focus for the business.

General categories will be explored by future articles. Many will be specific to farming but most will be apply to business in general. Many of the principals and activities that are written about may be employed privately, as well as publicly.

For any activity to succeed leadership is not optional, it is essential. Leadership is essential for motivation and direction. It is essential for evaluation and accomplishment. It is essential for the success of any organization. If leadership is removed, it isn't long before confusion replaces vision. Employees or volunteers who once dedicated themselves to their tasks begin to drift without leadership. Morale erodes, enthusiasm fades, and the whole system may grind to a halt. Peter Drucker's famous line is not only still true, it is timeless: "If an enterprise fails to perform, we rightly hire, not different workers, but a new president!" Whether the picture is business, industry, labor, government, education, athletics, military, religion, or domestic (the home), hope and progress rest in the hands of those who are in charge.

Chuck Swindoll defines leadership with two words: inspiring influence. He goes on to write in his book Leadership,

"Those who do the best job of management--those most successful as leader--use their influence to inspire others to follow, to work harder, to sacrifice, if necessary. Elusive though it may be, such inspiring influence generates incredible results. When a team finds leadership in the coach, it is remarkable how the players will strive for and achieve almost impossible feats to win. When a teacher has leadership abilities, the cooperation and accomplishments of the class border on the astounding. When a sales force finds leadership in their manager, they will knock themselves out to reach their quotas month in, month out."

Great leadership inspires great performance, poor leadership inspires poor performance. In order to be an effective leader, a few common attributes must be avoided and others that must be subscribed to. Those to be avoided are deception, flattery, greed, and authoritarianism. Attributes necessary for successful leadership are sensitivity to needs, affection for people, authenticity, and enthusiastic affirmation. In other words, the effective leader will be someone who gets along well with people and holds themselves to a high standard of integrity and moral values.

Future articles will explore:

More on leadership.
Time management.
     To the external customer.
     To the internal customer.
Developing a business plan.
Organizational design.
Strategic management.
Labor issues.
     Working with all those different personalities!
     Contract labor.
Estate planning.
Risk Management:

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