What a treat to enjoy Thanksgiving at the farm with family! Pond hockey, broom ball, games, pecan and pumpkin pie (I much prefer pie over cake any day), fellowship, gratefulness, and even some time cutting wood for the stove. It is so good to work together and play together. Most of my five siblings and the seventeen grandchildren were able to gather and stay at the farm (all but my sister’s family, who live in Kenya and teach at a university there). Dad is 84 years old now and Mom is close behind. They are an example of intentional leadership.
On Saturday, Dad invited all of the farm families that rent land from him over to the house for food, fellowship and a “program”. The “program” was intentional. He built our well over a thousand acre farm from nothing, buying his first 80 acres while in college just after serving in the Korean War. Why did he bring together family and renters and have a “program”? To introduce his kids to the renters, to encourage open communication, to transfer leadership, and to provide a peaceful thoughtful process for when he is not around anymore. Dad is still in great health, but he is wise. His wisdom to give a clear plan for succession planning will take a whole lot of stress out or our future. Each of the kids have clear responsibilities and roles. It was significant that in front of everyone he gave leadership to his fifth child, the brother just older than me to be the point person for farm operations. While we know Dad loves all of us, Loren is the best person for that job. This public declaration of who the farm point person is gave clarity and empowered Loren to take that role even though he is not the oldest child, which may be a more traditional approach for that responsibility.
Two leadership lessons: First, think ahead and act ahead. Secondly, while it is true that empowerment occurs when a person is given the resources needed for a given task, it is equally important to empower leaders by publicly giving them the leadership role necessary to take on responsibility and have others quickly follow. This is a form of “Transfer Trust” – Since people trust you as leader, and you trust a given person to lead, when you publicly give the leadership role, others will more quickly follow that individual so that you are no longer needed in that role.