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Leadership Lessons from Former Farmers

Posted on February 26, 2016 at 3:45 PM


I wrote an article on LinkedIn about the lessons I learned as a suburban kid who got shipped out to work on the family dairy farms during summer school breaks. That article hit a wellspring from people who grew up on farms and shared their own lessons that have helped them in their careers after the farm.

Here are the 5 biggest leadership lessons from farming those readers shared.

 

Seeing the Dignity in Any Honest Work – Anyone who spends any time on a dairy farm ends up ankle deep in cow manure at some point. Shoveling solid waste from animals is about as gross of a job as you can get, but you just get it done. You even don't mind it after a while. ("Smells like money!") After that, you can't imagine looking down on any other type of work. From washing dishes to cleaning motel rooms, you never forget to see the dignity in anyone doing honest work. No matter how high up you get on an organization chart, you never forget you shoveled manure and were proud to do it.


Recruiters Should Value Farm Experience - Working on a farm teaches people many skills that are valuable in any job outside of farming. ("All the important life skills I have needed to know, I learned from a cow.") Anyone who has worked on a farm has demonstrated a hard work ethic, reliability, creative problem-solving, teamwork, initiative, independence, emotional intelligence and many other skills on a daily basis. People who grew up as farm kids have a big head start demonstrating those skills over people who only started working after high school or college.


Physically Exhausting Work as Relaxation - If you work in a stressful office job, getting out to work on a farm for a break can be a great way to unwind. Beyond the fresh air and exercise, work that involves operating heavy machinery or managing large animals forces you to focus in the minute and leave your other worries behind for a while.


Gender Equality - "There are no blue or pink jobs on farms." Chores are chores and they don't discriminate. Animals don't care about the gender of who is bringing the food. Overalls look the same on everyone. If you want to see a workplace where hard work doesn't discriminate, go to a farm.


Farms as Training Centers - If corporate retreats were held at farms instead of posh resorts, they might actually be productive. What a great way to get all the above benefits and to get people to forget office hierarchy and politics for a while. If nothing else, doing a surprise swap of a golf resort for a dairy farm for a senior executive retreat could make an interesting reality TV show premise.

Categories: People Leadership, Organizational Values