Talent makes a difference
Every leader of a successful feed and grain firm understands the importance of great talent. A McKinsey study (E. Axelrod, H. Handfield-Jones, T. Welsh, “The War for Talent, Part Two,” McKinsey Quarterly 2001) took a look at just what great people mean to an organization in financial terms. The difference in impact generated by the top 20% of a firm’s employees and average employees is staggering. The top 20% of employees in operational roles boost productivity 40% over average employees. For general managers, the top 20% increase profitability 49% over their average counterparts while the top 20% of those working in sales generate 67% more revenue than average employees. Previous “Manager’s Notebook” columns have addressed issues around recruiting and retention of employees, so we won’t focus on those issues here. Rather, we want to focus on some new (preliminary) survey results on the desired skills and capabilities in leadership team members for agribusiness firms and what these results mean for helping your team manage for today and tomorrow.
Some 59 CEOs of cooperatives responded to a survey focused on key success factors for the future, and on leadership competencies needed by their employees to be successful in the future. The CEOs came from Corn Belt and High Plains states primarily, with some from the mid-South and South. The study was conducted by the Center for Food and Agricultural Business at Purdue University in partnership with Land O’Lakes Cooperative. (For more information on the survey, contact Allan Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org, (765) 434-4323) at the Center for Food and Agricultural Business.
While the survey explored several issues, our focus is on “leadership competencies needed by senior management to effectively lead the organization in the future.” Based on a review of previous work in this area, PDI Ninth House developed a set of four general leadership competencies:
- Thought Leadership: using insightful judgment, applying financial acumen, innovative thinking, displaying a global perspective and thinking strategically.
- Results Leadership: focus on customers, lead courageously, driving for results, ensuring execution
- People Leadership: building relationships, promoting collaboration, influencing others, building talent, engaging and inspiring
- Personal Leadership: inspiring trust, adapting and learning
The cooperative CEOs were asked to rank these four capabilities according to how important each is for a senior management team member to have to be an effective leader in the future. (Before reading on, you might take your own pulse on this question: How would you rank these four items in terms of importance for your leadership team?)
Skills for the future
The 59 CEOs ranked people leadership the most important, followed closely by results leadership. Personal leadership and thought leadership were ranked almost identically, and were substantially less important than people leadership and results leadership to this group of CEOs.
We would suggest this is an important exercise: What you believe to be important in senior leaders in your organization will say a lot about whom you promote into these roles, how you coach and train, your definition of success, etc. What do these preliminary survey results suggest to us?
It is hard to argue with people leadership taking the top spot in this ranking. The leadership competencies included under the umbrella of people leadership are important in the short term and long, in large and small organizations. Capabilities such as building relationships, promoting collaboration, and building talent really embrace much of what it means to be a manager, to be a leader in a feed and grain organization.