Leadership, A Committment Beyond What Most Can See

Our most recent VALOR excursion landed us in the Northern Neck region of Virginia. The Northern Neck is an area full of history, fertile soils, and plenty of water.  The roads are lined with historic markers, the homeplaces or many of the founding fathers of the United States, and historic homes of yesterday. It is only logical to find a robust waterman industry here; harvesting many favorites such as crabs, oysters, clams, and many other swimmers.  Agriculture production reigns supreme in the region.  As you travel to a fro, you will notice plenty of row crops and vegetable production lining the roads.  Also, throughout the area are some very successful nurseries supplying the Northern VA and Baltimore markets.  I took a little side excursion to visit two of my friends early one morning, at Crookhorn Nursery and Poplar Ridge Nursery, who make their livings supplying trees and grasses to the landscape and garden centers of Northern VA.

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Before heading out onto the water to visit Tangier island and Port Isabel, we stayed at the Stratford Hall. Stratford Hall is a historic house of the Lee family, the birthplace of several historic figures in our nation’s history, including Robert E Lee.  Here we took a little slower pace than other trips, and we reviewed our personal leadership projects, and our KAI assessments.

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KAI theory is based on two types of problems solvers, Adaption and Innovation, and provides insight into how people solve problems and interact while making decisions. As you begin to understand whether you are an adapter or innovator, you can hopefully build stronger teams and reduce stress amongst the team.  Hopefully we can develop these skills to be more effective leaders.

As we begin to understand our preferred style of dealing with the constant flow of problems we all face each day, we must be careful to not believe one is better than the other. It is imperative as leaders of our organizations to understand how people prefer to deal with a problem, and allow people to work at a pace and structure that suits them.  For instance, I have a good friend who is always retooling or repurposing something, meanwhile I am willing to throw the whole thing away and start from scratch.  His way is too slow for me, and my way is catastrophic to him because we could have just made what we had work.  Nevermind his reputation for being cheap, or pulling a “perfectly good” item from the greenbox that he just can’t believe someone like me threw away; when you step back we both just solve problems differently.

You can see how each would have their strength in different situations, though. It may be more resourceful to retool what we have, and get the job done.  On the other hand, we could spend two days retooling something, while it would have been more cost effective to just scrap the idea and start from scratch.  It is up to us as leaders in our organizations to recognize what is happening, and effectively lead.

Borrowing an idea from my pastor, Dr. Joey Faucet, there are four characteristics of effective leaders.

  1. A good leader has the capacity to separate themselves from the anxiety around them (observe without participating).
  2. A good leader has commitment to goals beyond the horizons that everyone else sees.
  3. A good leader has the courage to define themselves within the community.
  4. A good leader has the emotional stamina to persist in the face of mutiny.

When you look at great leaders around the world, and throughout history, neither innovation nor adaptive styles are necessarily what make them successful. It has a lot more to do with their ability to place others in positions to allow them to succeed.  By being aware of yourself and those around you, we can lead more effectively.  The characteristics described by Dr. Joey are not always easy to exhibit, but through increased personal awareness you will be a lot closer than most.

One thing is always for sure though, emotional stamina is key. Now where you find the inspiration to continue and the stamina to persist can be another whole post (maybe you can see if @paintthetownag has a Sunday Salt post).  Many of us have trouble to “Keep the Faith,” borrowing a line from a great 80’s Bon Jovi song.  Often I find myself, “Livin on a Prayer” (calling @FerrumAg Tim Durham’s karaoke ability here – man I wish I would have got that recorded).

It often feels that mutiny comes from all around. See Cliffs post regarding how those of us in production ag often feel.  It is a never ending onslaught of pressure from Mother Nature and outside special interest groups.  If you aren’t fighting 12” of rain in 12 days, you are wondering will it ever rain again.  Meanwhile, you have groups telling little children that the food you eat is going to kill you, and those evil greedy farmers over there are not doing it right.  At some point you just may want to throw your hands up in the air, drop a four letter word, and run away.  As leaders, we can’t afford to do that.  Our livelihoods and reputations depend on it.  So grab the lunchboxlunchpail defense (so you have a little physical stamina to go along with the emotional stamina), and keep pushing to define yourself and reach your goals the world tells you can’t be reached.

Next up, Florida.

Here are a few more fun pics from the week on the Northern Neck

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