TRAVERSE CITY — In visiting farms across the Midwest recently with the Michigan State University Extension Dairy Team, I was impressed by the improvements that we continue to make in the dairy industry, but also noted an often dramatic difference between the leadership styles on various farms and the attitudes that owners/managers display as leaders of their operations.
These attitudes and leadership styles set the tone for their farms.
Some owners expressed an extremely positive attitude about the dairy industry and their farm. They openly shared their optimism for the future and how their farm was making changes to be a part of that bright future. Employees on these farms were viewed as part of a team that was going to take the farm to that bright future. Employees were given responsibilities, the ability to make decisions, and the best was expected of them.
Other farms owners appeared very negative. Employees on these farms were viewed in an unfavorable way. These farms often expressed to us the problems with their employees, the need to constantly correct them, and were generally expecting to find more employee-related problems around the next corner, and the worst was expected of them.
When employees see a positive attitude in the owner/manager of the farm they tend to have a more positive attitude themselves. Attitudes are contagious and, frankly, it’s much more rewarding working for someone that openly expresses a progressive, positive attitude. Employees feel that the farm is going in the right direction, and good employees want to be part of that type of an organization. Employees on these farms we visited wanted to “step up to the plate” and do their part as a member of the farm team. Employees responded well to the “coaching” style of leadership that seemed to naturally grow out of these farm owners/managers.