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Vision Quest—Leading from the Front with Visioning
by Glen Ludwig

I’m pleased to see that as Grain and Feed Marketing became Grain & Feed Manager, the magazine’s slogan changed from “Helping Managers Manage” to “Helping Managers Lead.” Truly, management help is certainly relevant in these exciting times of change and growth in agribusiness. Top-level jobs in agribusinesses continue to be, for the most part, identified as management positions. The manager name plate, though, is often not fully effective or appropriate in describing the expectations and talents required to guide a highly successful agribusiness. Possibly a more fitting title might be “management leader”.

After all, things—like money, equipment, facilities, and inventories—can be managed. Human assets, the people in your business, need to be led. So this article will focus on “Helping Managers Lead.”

Because leadership is mostly about people, it’s never easy. If it were, more people could do it well. Leadership requires courage and desire. Leaders have vision and are effective at implementing change. Nearly 40 years ago a mentor of mine told me something I have never forgotten: “If you think you look silly on a horse, don’t attempt to lead a cavalry charge.” What he meant is that the best leaders are comfortable being out front, taking risks, and accepting the skepticism often cast in their direction. Certainly effective leaders are committed to acknowledging the brutal facts of both the present and future.

Great leaders are highly committed to a goal and their goals are tightly linked to their vision for the company. Exceptional leaders are incredibly ambitious – not out of self–interest but to reach the fulfillment of their organization’s vision. But some inspiring great leaders often experience frustration and loneliness because they don’t share their vision for the company.

From my vantage point as an agribusiness consultant, I observe companies that are significantly under performing because they lack a well-defined and broadly-shared vision for the future. The worst cases occur when organizations have trudged into a rut of complacency, becoming so inwardly focused and oblivious to the realities of the present that they assume business as usual is the path to success. When an organization’s vision of the future is “no change,” it’s high time to revisit both vision development and vision communication.

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