Flying Forward: Start the New Year in the Growth Mode

December 27, 2023

When the announcement came out in 2021, I had this “full circle of life” feeling because, in the mid-1980s, I was involved in the research and development effort of the B-2 Spirit – the original stealth bomber developed by Northrop Corporation. It was an exciting and challenging time, and there were many leadership lessons for me that came from that project.

Some of those lessons are discussed by leadership legend John Maxwell in his book Leadership Gold. This is a great book to study as you grow your leadership skills. He presents 26 lessons from his decades of leadership experience. These lessons are important to soybean growers, commodity board members, and anyone who leads a farm, ranch, or family.

One of those lessons is to bring people along with you as you move your organization forward. In 2009, one of the leaders of the B-2 program told an audience at Whiteman Airforce Base that the importance of developing people was an important lesson for him in a major complex engineering project: “…put the right people in the right place, and they'll make you proud and they'll make themselves proud.” I think about the facets of modern agriculture – science, new technology, marketing - ag enterprises can certainly be considered complex projects.

Developing people is just as important to a successful farm as it is to an innovative airplane.

That’s one of the reasons I applaud the South Dakota Soybean Genesis Leaders Program. This program provides a deep foundation in developing leadership skills and increasing industry knowledge.

Another leadership concept from John’s book is asking the right questions. Every day, the B-2 development team solved problems and challenges by asking the right questions. I believe the Soybean Research and Development Council is asking some great questions: What is the next market for our soybeans? Can soybeans be used to make tires, or sneakers, or road treatment? How can we improve growing practices? Asking the right questions grows ideas and insights, creates new markets, and helps provide more secure farming enterprises that build legacies.

But to be the best that you can be, you need to ask questions of yourself. John Maxwell suggests starting with “Am I Investing in Myself?” Do you consider yourself better at the “technical side of leadership” or the “people part of leadership?” What are you doing to improve the areas where you have weaknesses? John suggests that you need to keep learning to keep leading, and taking a genuine interest in others and their personal growth creates an environment of collaboration and synergy.

As we begin to embrace 2024, let me encourage you to “fly forward” and grow your leadership capabilities. Invest in yourself and develop the people who surround you. Make the New Year a place where the sky’s the limit!

Don Norton is a Strategic Leadership Consultant and a Maxwell Leadership certified trainer and speaker. He has served as the CEO of the South Dakota and Illinois Agricultural Leadership Programs.This is a special time for South Dakota. Ellsworth Airforce Base will be the home of the B-21 Raider stealth bomber later this decade. What a great opportunity for economic development at Ellsworth and in the neighboring communities!

Provided by Don Norton for the South Dakota Soybean Leader