Leadership- are you born with it or molded into it?
Some say it’s one or the other and some also say it’s a mixture of both. Whatever the case may be, a true leader does not need a title to make an impact. Leadership always presents itself to us in one fashion or another and I feel that agriculture is one of the greatest fields where leadership opportunities are presented to everyone, title or not.
I remember growing up on our small farm, looking out to our fields and dreaming of one day being the farmer out on the tractor with the lights beaming through the thick dust late at night. Looking back at it now, 20 years later, there were so many people that may not have known it, but they led me to where I am today. And in some ways, I think all of us have those people. Those people who pushed us, tested us, helped us achieve something greater than we thought we could reach at that time. For some it may have been the old woodshop teacher or the assistant coach, but for me there is a different person that stands out – an individual involved with my local 4-H group that led me to be the person I am to today.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t the traditional leaders of our group that I’m referring to. It wasn’t the appointed leaders that drove me to work harder, to push myself to learn more and teach others. Looking back now on it, it was the father of some of my best friends that turned out to be the leaders I never expected. This man took time to understand what we needed, as individuals in our 4-H group, he sacrificed his time and opened his farms to teach us the passion, commitment and dedication within the agricultural field. He never asked for anything in return. He never once asked for recognition but was always right there to help. While other appointed leaders stood by the sidelines, this man took charge and got members of our group to do things you would never even imagine them doing.
I didn’t understand it at the time, but what he was doing was leading us to be greater people and work for the bigger picture as we grew into the adults. This man led me from being that boy dreaming about becoming a farmer, to taking the steps to becoming the farmer in the tractor. For those of you involved in clubs and organizations such as 4-H, don’t think that you need a title to lead our future young farmers to do great things. All you have to do is show them you’re willing to understand them and guide them to ideas that they may not think of on their own. Just taking the time to show up and give advice or direction is enough to push them to work harder and reach for bigger goals.
One day these kids will look back and understand what the bigger picture was and how unperceived leadership guided them to do more and share the bigger picture with others. One day they will come up to you with a handshake, or a hug, and thank you for everything you did that went unnoticed, and that’s the day you’ll know that leading without a title is one of the greatest fruits of your labor.
Andrew Dal Santo
Andrew Dal Santo grew up on his family’s 100 acre farm right on the Wisconsin-Illinois state line in South Beloit, Ill. He was active in track and 4-H during high school. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin- Platteville in 2014, majoring in agricultural business with an emphasis in agricultural engineering, and a minor in building construction management. Andrew now works for Reddy Ag and Ross Soil Service in Southwest Wisconsin as their Precision Ag Consultant. He has been involved with Wisconsin Farm Bureau for four years and takes part in discussion meets as well as other activities. Andrew is a part of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Leadership Institute and looks forward to learning and growing within the organization and is excited for the opportunities that will come his way.He is also currently working on expanding his Angus beef herd and hopes to one day own his own bison herd.