In a previous article, I concluded that a critical result of the turbulence of today’s world is that everything seems to become more urgent. This urgency typically results in people becoming more stressed, anxious, often frustrated and even angry, leading to reduced motivation and lower productivity.

Further, the previous article concludes that dairy farms and other businesses must create a true urgency culture. The creation of this true urgency culture can only be accomplished by leadership — by you, the owner.

In this article, we address this first of four keys to establishing a true urgency culture: Owners must lead the farm toward a true urgency culture.

Let’s begin with two short quotes from leadership gurus:

“Leaders rally people to a better future.” — Marcus Buckingham

“The challenge of leadership is to create change and facilitate growth.” — John Maxwell

We can understand how these ideas apply on a dairy by eavesdropping on a conversation between two herd managers during a break at a herdsperson training. The managers are Fred, who works on a farm owned by George, and Tom, who works on a farm owned by Dave:

Tom:   How is George doing these days?

Fred:   He continues to do a great job with the crops and pretty much leaves me alone.

Tom:   Dave is also doing a great job with the crops. He, however, stops by nearly every day to keep us focused on our vision to “feed families just like ours.” Most days he has an exciting idea or insight or tells us about something important he has learned about our industry, the economy or our global business environment.

Fred:   That doesn’t sound like the Dave I know. Has he changed?

Tom:   Yes, big time! During the disaster of 2009, he realized that what was happening in our dairy industry was only the tip of the iceberg of what is happening in our world. He says everything has sped up and is becoming more urgent. He has decided that in today’s world, his first priority as owner has to be the future of our business. 

Fred:   What do you think of this change?

Tom:   It is incredible! I love it! It keeps me excited and focused on what is important.

In this conversation, we see in Dave the evolution that every owner must make to become a great leader as well as a hard worker and a great manager. The two most difficult changes for most owners will be:

  1. The focus of leadership is on people, relationships and increasing trust. Note that Dave stopped by every day to reinforce the vision and share ideas, insights and knowledge.
  2. Leaders have different priorities. I often say that at least one owner must “roll out of bed” in the morning thinking about the future of the dairy. The leader’s first priority has to be on the future. Note Dave’s changed priorities and his focus on the external environment impacting the dairy.

Today is a great day for you to accelerate your growth as the leader of your dairy. Focus more on the future; spend time coaching your employees; read a book on leadership.

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.