World food supply depends on character, virtuous leadership

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Leadership in AgriculturePhoto courtesy of Texas A&M University PressLeadership in Agriculture: Case Studies for a New Generation, by John Patrick Jordan, Gale A. Buchanan, Neville P. Clarke and Kelly C. Jordan If the world’s food supply and natural resources are to be sustained for future generations, visionary leadership is a must. And what better model to look to than the virtues known since antiquity?

That’s the gist of a new book, “Leadership in Agriculture: Case Studies for a New Generation.” Its authors pull upon their own global experience in agriculture and critique the  outcomes based on character and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude.

This collaborative work by John Patrick Jordan, Gale Buchanan, Neville Clarke and Kelly Jordan pulls on their various administrative roles in the military, U.S. Department of Agriculture, state land-grant institutions and academia. Case studies look at a wide variety of issues that demanded strong leadership — from how a regional agricultural lab survived Hurricane Katrina to how leaders from around the nation were able to develop a shared vision to fund agriculture research.

“In essence, character is the sum total of an individual’s personality traits and the link between that person’s values and behavior,” the authors wrote. “Character helps enhance effectiveness.”

Effective leaders, they add, must have the modern counterparts of the ancient virtues: wisdom, justice, moderation and courage.

“The case studies are from our own experience – the good, the bad and the ugly,” said John Patrick Jordan of New Orleans, formerly USDA’s Cooperative State Research Service CEO and Agriculture Research Service Southern Regional Research Center director. “The book is about the act of motivating people to want to follow you in a direction with a specific goal, and that’s different than management. Fortitude and temperance, for example, are things that you don’t normally see in management books.”

Clarke explained that leadership is getting people to do what needs to be done while management is “the doing, the practice.”

“It’s not a textbook on procedures but a philosophical approach with general principles illustrated in case studies. We go past the ‘cookbook’ to how leadership works in diverse situations,” said Clarke of College Station, former Texas Agriculture Experiment Station director and U.S. Department of Homeland Security National Center for Foreign Animal Disease Defense head.

Buchanan said that while working on another book about the importance of agriculture research he saw many instances “where leadership has made the difference in success.”

“Likewise, there are many situations where lack of effective leadership has hampered success of agriculture,” said Buchanan of Tifton, Ga., who was an administrator in both Alabama and Georgia agriculture and served as USDA chief scientist and undersecretary for research, education and economics. “The success of agriculture made possible our civilization, and the continued success of agriculture will ensure the viability of our civilization. Character and leadership are inseparable. On countless occasions I have seen situations where character made the difference in effective leaders.”

John Patrick Jordan, Clarke and Buchanan agreed that a pivotal part of the book is the leadership analysis by Kelly Jordan at the end of each case study.

Kelly Jordan, a retired U.S. Army officer who developed leaders for five years at the Culver Academies in Culver, Ind. before becoming the dean of students at Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Ind., gives an outsider’s look at the leadership methods described in each case study pointing to the character traits and virtues that made a difference in the outcomes.

“Leadership in Agriculture: Case Studies for a New Generation” is available at most online book suppliers or at Texas A&M University Press Consortium,

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illinois  |  May, 16, 2013 at 03:07 PM

Food will be used either as a weapon (infected, contaminated food sources) or as an inducement or bargaining chip. Mankind does not have the maturity, and perhaps never will, to be tolerable to the different races, creeds, and political persuasions that make up this great rock in space that we all inhabit to confront this problem with the humanity that it will require.

Tennessee  |  May, 17, 2013 at 08:39 AM

The righteous diabolical few leading the incompetent deluded many to regulate the distracted ignorant masses on a global scale. Yeah, that should work except for one teensy weensy little detail -- still need someone to produce the safe, abundant, affordable food you are holding as bargaining chips. You know, someone who laces on boots each morning and methodically gets the chores done. Funny how these self-acclaimed "leaders" vanish whenever there are chores to be done. Agriculture has never succeeded in simply talking food and fiber into existence. Maybe these messianic "leaders" know something the rest of us don't? Don't bet on it. Just another variation of the smarmy Micheal Pollan/Mark Bittman/Marion Nestle/Michael Bloomberg hallucinatory greater good for middle-aged upper-class Jewish elite at the routine expense of the rest of us.

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