Analysis of Leadership Perceptions, Skills and Traits as Perceived by Agribusiness and Industry Professionals

By Smalley, Scott W.; Retallick, Michael S. et al. | NACTA Journal, May 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Analysis of Leadership Perceptions, Skills and Traits as Perceived by Agribusiness and Industry Professionals


Smalley, Scott W., Retallick, Michael S., Metzger, Donald, Greiman, Brad, NACTA Journal


Introduction/Theoretical Framework

Agribusiness helps support worldwide demand for food, fiber, fuel and natural resources. As agricultural research and technology accelerates, so do new career opportunities that require new knowledge and skills. Success in these new opportunities also requires leadership and developing students' leadership qualities continues to be an important topic in both the agricultural industry and agricultural education discipline. Various leadership writers (Bolt, 1996; Gardner, 1990) believe we approached the 21st century with a dramatic deficit in leaders. However, Bolt emphasized the deficit was really in leadership development and not leadership itself. Similarly, 75% of respondents in the IBM Global Human Capital Study (IBM, 2007) reported that the inability to develop future leaders is a critical issue for organizations. Kouzes and Posner (2007) also suggested the world is facing problems that need strong leadership to guide society towards a better future.

The preparation of future generations of leaders will not end anytime soon. It has been well noted that leadership competencies are integral for navigating a path through rapidly escalating global complexity (IBM, 2010). There is an ongoing need to describe and understand the importance of leadership around the world today. Lenhardt et al. (2011) emphasized that employers who hire for agriculture-related careers desire to hire college graduates who possess effective leadership skills. Higher education has been entrusted with the role of developing leaders for a global society (Astin et al., 2000). Many higher education institutions are working to address the problem by providing high quality leadership activities and programs to students (Riggio et al., 2003).

Many studies have been conducted on leadership and its connection to industry. Rosenberg et al. (2012) concluded that ongoing communication is vital to the connections between educational institutions and industry. When employers communicate their needs and educational institutions modify their curricula in a timely manner, current and engaging learning experiences can result. An ongoing exchange of information, knowledge and resources between colleges of agriculture and agribusiness/industry regarding leadership and employability skill requirements can improve the content and context of new leadership development curricula.

Also, there appears to be an increasing effort in higher education to stay attuned to agribusiness/ industry's leadership needs through the development of new leadership training programs in colleges of agriculture around the country. Brungardt (2011) found that graduate students who had exposure to several leadership courses had a significantly higher level of skill development than students who had no leadership courses. Rosenberg et al. (2012) described a series of seven studies dating back to the 1980s that laid the foundation for research in the area of employability skills needed in business. In their study, a sample of 97 human resource managers who recruited at a California university identified leadership skills as the second most important dimension among eight dimensions of employability valued in college graduates. The managers mentioned responsibility, self-esteem, integrity and honesty as characteristics that define leadership.

Dormody and Seevers (1994) believed youth develop leadership skills by public speaking, holding an office and participating in meetings. Sawi and Smith (1997) defined leadership skills as leadership, teamwork, decision-making, problem solving, reasoning and communication as well as personal qualities such as responsibilities, self-esteem and integrity. Other leadership skills are organization and delegation, problem solving, sharing leadership, communication, futuristic thinking, decision-making, time management, divergent thinking, conflict resolution, goals setting and group dynamics. Hustedde and Woodward (1996) identified 14 communication-related skills that often need to be developed in leadership training programs: active listening, facilitation, imagination, interviewing, collaboration, conflict resolution, deliberation, evaluation, negotiation, power analysis, strategic planning, team building, vigilance and volunteer management. …

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