By Stefanie Smallhouse
Leadership is an absolutely humanistic element sought in all areas of our lives: school, church, work, family, community and government. A few years ago, an interview with author Simon Sinek went viral on YouTube because it was so relatable. He explained how 35 years of raising kids to think that everyone is a winner, in conjunction with the explosion of social media and digital technology, has had some detrimental side effects to the workplace. The impact has left employers feeling the need to step up and find ways to reverse some of the effects. But the greater question is, does this go beyond just the workplace and will this lead to a leadership crisis everywhere?
There is certainly an exhaustive list of the benefits we’ve received from the digital revolution of the last four decades. But like the rapid-fire disclaimer of all those side effects listed in the ad for the latest anxiety medication (which would cause more anxiety I would think!), we should be aware of where humanistic elements are essential and may be harmed from the reliance on technology.
Sinek explains, awarding every child regardless of achievement has created a lack of confidence and a sense of entitlement. Addiction to social media and gaming has starved a generation of person-to-person interactions, relationship building, imagination and allowing their minds to wander and create. Every technology which makes our lives easier also creates an expectation of instant gratification.
Sarah Moulton of Human Capital Leadership Institute points out that there are four leadership traits that cannot be replaced by artificial intelligence: reassuring communication, human touch, establishing rapport and creativity. This means they need to be cultivated in us…the humans!
Reassuring communication is critical because technology cannot teach or convey hope, essentially. The human touch relates to problem-solving based upon the needs of a unique individual or group; dedication to seeing the solution through. Establishing rapport creates trust and empathy which is needed for people to work successfully towards the same goal. Moulton references Eric Wahl’s explanation of creativity by saying, “Intellect without intuition makes for a smart person without impact.”
At Arizona Farm Bureau we see great value in youth leadership programs such as the Arizona FFA and Arizona 4-H. These organizations provide opportunities to both urban and rural youth and instill the value of hard work, responsibility, leadership, ingenuity, problem-solving and persistence through a myriad of programs offered to fit all sorts of interests. Aren’t these the qualities of leadership we all want to guide the future?
It is true that the Age of Social Media has shifted our axis and we don’t yet know what greatness and cost will result, but I don’t believe Sinek has spent much time around Blue Jackets (FFA students) or the 4-H Creed. Believe me, there is very little instant gratification in agriculture, as those of us involved in it know. These youth are confident because they have earned their reward and they must interact with their peers to get the job done. Their minds have been engaged and broadened through the many projects the programs offer. As long as these programs remain robust with our support, there will be no leadership crisis in agriculture or elsewhere.
Stefanie Smallhouse is president of Arizona Farm Bureau. This column originally appeared as an Arizona Farm Bureau blog post.