Leadership in the Current Environment

Dr. Bob Milligan, Dairy Strategies

Bob Milligan

Today likely presents the greatest leadership opportunity for essentially every owner, leader, supervisor, and even individual in our lifetime. The reason is that all of us are feeling at least uncertainty if not frustration, anger, fear, loneliness, and even depression. Individuals with these emotions are more likely to rebel or reduce compliance to authority and formal power. Look at what happened in the streets of Minneapolis, all over the country, and is not especially prevalent in bars.

The response to leadership using informal power, on the other hand, is likely very positive. People are craving communication, connections, and feelings of belonging. Today’s leadership opportunity is to connect with your people and develop a sense that we and the farm/business will get through this together.

Here are suggestions:

  • Be Visible
     (socially disciplined). Always say “hello’ and be friendly. This may be contrary to how you are feeling personally, but your responsibility as a leader is to structure your behaviors to meet the needs of your people.
  • Provide positive feedback and show appreciation. These are always valuable but never more so than today.
  • Be clear – “chalk the field” as I call it. There is uncertainty everywhere. The clarity you provide about expectations, rules, assignments, etc. will be truly appreciated rather than when absent adding additional uncertainty.
  • Consider some form of consistent communication. This could be a weekly email or text, so everyone knows what is happening on the farm or business. Also, it is a great place to share successes on and off the farm and current events like birthdays, births, etc.
  • Ask for input and involve people in planning and decision-making. You do not want to traverse this crisis alone so build the team to help you.
  • Provide redirection feedback so everyone can succeed and grow.
  • Inevitably there are conflicts. Address those conflicts with care and empathy. In essentially every case both parties have some culpability in the conflict. Consider, starting the discussion by admitting your culpability and apologize if necessary. Then more to resolve the conflict.

Be more of a leader and a friend – informal powers – and less of a boss – formal power.

Coaching Tip:  Creativity is Required

A year ago, our younger son, Sam, turned 40. His wife, Leehe, planned and executed a surprise birthday party with family, many from out of town, and a larger party with friends later that weekend. That, of course, established unstated expectations for his wife’s 40th birthday this year – actually earlier this week. Enter a pandemic making an in-person event impossible as her family and friends live all over the country.

It would have been easy Sam our son to plan something small but special. Enter creativity. By thinking out of the box, Sam invited family and friends to take a picture of themselves and send it to him along with a paragraph or more about their relationship with Leehe. He had the pictures blown up. Yesterday – we saw this in an amazing video – the pictures and the writeups were spread throughout the living room as a shocked and thrilled Leehe entered the room and looked at the pictures.

Now instead of looking back and blaming the pandemic for a less than desired 40th birthday for Leehe, they both will look back fondly on two incredible 40th birthday celebrations.

In a crisis when the normal will not be possible, we all must be creative. We must “begin with the end in sight.” By focusing on the vision, the need, or the goal and then being creative about the path, we can accomplish much and reduce the damage of the pandemic.



Leadership and creativity are required!!

Editor’s note: The author is with Dairy Strategies and can be contacted by phone at 651.647.0495 or by email at rmilligan@trsmith.com This article appears in his July 3 LearningEdge Monthly newsletter.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.