When I think of the grassroots approach of Farm Bureau, the words of former Utah Farm Bureau Federation (UFBF) President Leland Hogan come to mind when addressing the huge room of voting delegates representing every county in Utah. He said countless times; “What’s your pleasure?” Farm Bureau does not elect leaders who decide the direction the organization will go; we elect people who will take the will of the collective body and use that to steer Farm Bureau. Our grassroots process is the difference between top-down vs. bottom-up leadership.
To be successful and remain a powerful voice in the media, among lawmakers, and in industry, we need leaders throughout all of Farm Bureau. This is why Farm Bureau is always working to develop leaders.
It seems every Utah or American Farm Bureau conference you attend there are many breakout sessions, panel discussions or motivational speakers covering how to be a better leader. We don’t work to develop every Farm Bureau member into a County President or State YF&R Chairman, what we need are members with the skills to lead the organization from everywhere. Steven Covey could have been talking about Farm Bureau directly when he said; “An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success.” Knowledge; Skill; Desire; Opportunity. These four things make up the ideal Farm Bureau leadership cycle.
Knowledge can be gained in many ways, like attending breakout sessions at conventions, listening to discussions at County Farm Bureau meetings, or learning from leaders you know and associate with. Skills can be developed through applying the knowledge learned. Desire can be shown in different ways to everyone. For example, I get excited putting newly acquired skills to work after learning of others’ success stories. Opportunities for leadership in Farm Bureau are plentiful, but sometimes you must be willing to step outside of your comfort zone & jump right in.
I recently completed the two-year ‘Partners in Advocacy Leadership’ (PAL) program with the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). Every two years, AFBF selects 10 farmers from across the country to participate in PAL. Trainers lead us to develop skills like effective storytelling, influencing through the media, building relationships with local and national elected officials, and engaging with industry stakeholders (with both common and opposing views). PAL is not your run-of-the-mill leadership training. We had assignments throughout the two years requiring 5-10 hours/week of studying, creating videos and reports, and engaging with elected officials, reporters, and journalists. The training was intense, and we spent months studying each topic. I have told many people that I was prepared for PAL by engaging in the opportunities UFBF has provided for leadership development.
At a Farm Bureau conference I attended about five years ago, Drew Dudley spoke about how the world views accepting the title of “Leader” as an act of arrogance or as a revered title we must work to achieve someday later in life. Drew taught me the importance of recognizing the little things in our lives that we do to lead or influence others and allowing ourselves to take credit for those actions as attributes of leadership. This is the mindset I would like to see every Farm Bureau member embrace, as we learn to better lead from the bottom up.