The best leaders today seem to have a keen sense of when to make changes. They know when to share an example of their own struggle and when to motivate the next generation. It’s their gut instinct — that feeling we all get during times of decision-making. It’s the best leaders who know when to use their gut instinct along with well-calculated risk to make decisions.
Many of you have been following this series on leadership and you know the traits I firmly believe make someone shine as a leader: collaboration, empowerment, focus, integrity and intuition.
Intuition is an interesting one to write about. How do we explain it? It’s that feeling that develops out of our experience, and that we learn to trust over time as we build confidence in our decision-making.
It’s those moments when we jump on the haybine to cut hay when others wouldn’t because the forecast called for rain. In this area, it’s about harvesting a crop of wheat and then drilling beans back in for a shot at a double-crop year. It’s when your son suggests we bring the heifer in a few days early because she was bred to a certain sire that may require some assistance — you just have that feeling he is right and it might be tonight that she delivers.
It’s about getting it, without really knowing how or why you know. You agree, and of course the next day he tells you how he assisted her in the night and delivered another healthy next-gen prize heifer for the herd.
Intuitive leaders are powerfully aware of what is happening around them — they sense and feel things deeply. They just know.
And a big part of that is knowing how to support the next generation in a collaborative environment. It’s empowering people to share their thoughts and ideas, and knowing when to push for answers and when to back away.
It might be when your son or daughter makes a suggestion against the norm, something you haven’t planted, using a sire you have never heard of, working the ground differently or trying a different brand of seed. They provide you with enough confidence, and your gut just tells you it’s the right time to let them step up, be engaged and cultivate new ideas for growth. It’s a chance for both generations to learn, and an opportunity to transition leadership.
It’s hard at times like this to not do what we would normally do — avoid risk by maintaining control of the situation with our years of experience. However, as parents of the next generation, these are the moments when we must let our sons and daughters step up and develop their instincts and their decision-making skills. We must show them we have confidence in them and their abilities.
When we have multiple children involved in the farm, it also brings additional challenges in terms of deciding when it’s the right time for each child to take on more responsibility. As parents, it’s difficult to find the balance between when we might think the time is the right time and what the other family members think and feel.
We try our best to be fair to all our children, but sometimes your gut tells you this one is ready, regardless of age. We must utilize strong communication and intuitive leadership to find the strengths in each of our children and empower them with opportunities to lead in those areas.
Intuitive leadership isn’t about setting trends. It’s about making difficult decisions based on experience, solid business planning and instinct. Sometimes it’s hard to explain, but you just know it’s the right thing to do. Like those farms that quit shipping milk and moved to cash crop, or the first to have rooftop solar on their barn.
When people, including our children, use instinct to do things differently, it challenges our own intuitions, and the risks challenge our strength. It can make us nervous, but in the successful cases, they were well-calculated risks.
Yes, they had intuitive leadership which helped them with the ideas, but they also had a team around them to help make good decisions. They followed a plan, with everyone pulling in the same direction.
We can all relate to that feeling of pride when it was our intuition that helped us make decisions, when you baled that hay when your gut said “go” even when it looked like rain or when the heifer did calve a few days early — good thing we brought her in because she needed some help.
As leaders, we need to be ready to offer opportunities for the next generation to cultivate confidence in their intuitive decision-making skills.
We need to use our intuition to give them opportunities where they can feel pride in cultivating their own solutions.
And while I am confident all families will experience some challenges when working together — each unique to their own family dynamic — the most successful families have adopted an approach they use to solve day-to-day challenges together without someone guiding them each step of the way.
By intuitively empowering our next-generation leaders, we foster the confidence and the reactions the next generation will need to lead the farm into a successful future.
Strong leaders wake up with a sense of mindfulness, realizing that today our children are developing faster than previous generations — they have been good students of their mentor’s work. Embrace this, and if it feels right, go ahead and let them step up, empower them to take a lead and share a role or key decision — you know it will all work out.