Last summer, my wife and I spent a wonderful week vacationing in the Black Hills of western South Dakota. One highlight was a visit to Mount Rushmore. Especially meaningful and very patriotic was the evening program there. 

During the program, the ranger said a few words about each of our four great leaders enshrined into the mountain. In her comments about George Washington, she noted that he was a reluctant leader.

After leading our country to victory in the Revolutionary War, it was George Washington’s plan to return to Mount Vernon and spend the remainder of his life with his family. Instead, he heeded the call of his country to become our first president — the first elected leader of our fledgling country. 

Many of you reading this article are like George Washington. You chose to become a dairy farmer; however, the world has changed. The increasing size and complexity of the dairy business — its increasing variability and turbulence — now requires that you become a leader. You are being called by your dairy business vision and the workforce that your dairy supports to become the leader required for your dairy to continue to thrive.

Leadership Lesson: The economic environment facing today’s dairy businesses requires that owners become leaders in addition to being great managers and hard workers.

Bob Milligan is Senior Consultant with Dairy Strategies LLC and Professor Emeritus at the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University. He can be reached at or 651-647-0495.