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Since You Asked...

Sep 9th 2015, Legacy By Design

Kevin Spafford, for Penton Agriculture's LegacyConnection

Over the last few months, readers have been contacting me to ask, “How do you select the people you feature in this column? What characteristics do they have that make them ‘Legacy Leaders’?”  


Penton Agriculture's LegacyConnection is a multimedia legacy initiative, designed to actively serve the succession planning needs of America’s ag community. The effort is a collaboration among Penton Agriculture’s vast array of media properties and Kevin Spafford's succession planning expertise.  It includes information, tools, and experiences to inform the succession planning process and encourage farming professionals to engage in planning to prepare for a next generation of farming success.




By Kevin Spafford, for Farm Futures Magazine


There’s no bigger compliment to a columnist than for you, the reader, to reach out directly to me, the author, to interact personally regarding the subject. That’s why I write. My goal is to create a dialogue among Farm Futures constituents about succession planning. I want to a generate conversations and share experiences that help you achieve your goals for multigenerational success. Whether just beginning, or deep in the process, you have something to share.    

Since a comprehensive succession plan is designed to pass the farming enterprise from one generation to the next, the process will always involve multiple generations. It will cover an array of multi-disciplinary issues, including family dynamics, business acumen, tax strategies, legal documentation, and financial considerations. To reach a consensus and agree on solutions will require solid commitment, good communications, overcoming obstacles, shared goals, and action.  

South Carolina woodland - Photo courtesy of USDA NRCSPlanning for succession is not easy, but it is very gratifying. Like any other worthwhile endeavor, engagement in the process requires leadership. A person must be willing to step beyond a comfort zone and participate in a course of actions that is full of unknowns. At the outset, you can’t possibly know how others will react, what the process will truly entail, nor if your goals are even achievable. So, like in planting a crop at the beginning of the season, a leader steps forward and commits to take action based on a healthy measure of risk and reward.  

In a past column I explained, “Leadership is not a learned trait. The character of a leader and the ability to manage risk are developed over time and tempered in the forge of life experiences. Leaders are first learners. They develop the basics; learning about business development, money management , and team building. They develop relationships and grow the foundation necessary to build something bigger than self.”  

In a subsequent article I wrote, “[Leaders] commit to continue no matter what, how, or who may get in the way. If, like most farm families, the operation constitutes 97% of everything they own. If the operation is part of the family’s heritage, if it represents their lifestyle, if it provides financial security and future opportunities, it’s important to plan for success, devise strategies to keep it together, and protect it from harm. For a leader, continuing success is a choice.”  

So, to address the question, ‘what are the characteristics of a leader?’ Consider the following. A leader is:   

  • Visionary – He or she has the ability to imagine and/or conceive of something that does not exist today and take the steps necessary to make it come to fruition.
  • Resourceful – He or she employs a limited pool of resources to create something that increases value and/or produces a return on investment.
  • Interdependent – He or she recognizes that nothing great is ever a solo affair and acknowledges that it takes a team of dedicated people to create something bigger than self.
  • Industrious – He or she applies an agrarian work ethic and ‘can do’ attitude based with effort to get the job done---achievement is the goal.  
  • Communicative – He or she expresses through actions, words, and deeds, recognizing that each method sends a message and helps to establish an atmosphere.    
  • Proficient – He or she applies the skills and abilities necessary to get the job done. If not endowed with those particulars skills or abilities s/he acquires them through professional development or hires from outside.   
  • Resolute – He or she knows there is no single trait may be ‘most important’ than a strong will and determination to overcome the obstacles necessary for great achievement.  

Like planning for transition, success is a journey. We all know of others who are doing well and providing an excellent example. So, while we’re at it, and since you asked, who do you know who exemplifies those traits? Who should we feature in this column? Who represents the ag community, stands as an example to follow, and may willingly share their story of success?  

To nominate yourself or someone else to be a Legacy Leader, please contact me directly toll free at 877.523.7411 or  


Column published as ''Since You Asked", by Kevin Spafford for "Farm Futures" magazine, September 2015.

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