Kirk Leeds Iowa Soybean Association Chief Executive Off

(Photo: Joclyn Bushman/Iowa Soybean Association)

Executive Insights: Crisis of leadership

February 28, 2023 | Kirk Leeds

Good leaders are easy to recognize. They are empathetic, own setbacks and share successes. They care deeply about others and are good listeners. Most of all, leaders are problem solvers.

We are currently experiencing a crisis of competent leadership. Look around. There’s not much problem solving going on. In its place, acrimony, fear mongering, blame, partisanship, excuses and finger pointing. And plenty of theatrics.

Countless books, podcasts, lectures and conferences are devoted to the subject of leadership. Amazing, given how much we continue to struggle with the topic.

A crisis of leadership leads to an inability to function effectively and can involve a multitude of organizations, from local schools and municipalities to the upper echelons of our federal government. Increasingly, I find myself asking, “Where have all the leaders gone?”

Perhaps the answer can be found within the pages of this edition of the Iowa Soybean Review.

Recently, eight very deserving individuals were recognized for their contributions to agriculture, communities and the soybean industry during the Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) annual awards banquet.

As I listened intently to their accomplishments (also detailed in this publication), I was reminded that competent leaders do exist, especially in agriculture and the soybean industry.

Brian Kemp, ISA’s Legacy of Leadership Award recipient, is a fine example. Brian is the epitome of the quiet leader — someone who doesn’t get up each morning and shout from the mountaintops, “I’m a leader” but goes about the business of getting things done. Leaders like Brian show up for the right reasons and do what needs to be done. They take time to think through an issue or problem so the right decision is made.

Then there’s Peter Mishek, ISA’s Friend of the Iowa Soybean Farmer Award recipient. Nearly 30 years ago, Peter began acting on a vision regarding Southeast Asia’s growth in population and income and the potential it held for Midwest soybean farmers. He rallied others to the cause. His foresight and leadership have forever changed the way the soybean market looks and feels as exports intensify out of Grays Harbor and the Pacific Northwest.

Also recognized was Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig, our Advocate for Agriculture Award winner. The Cylinder native and farmer transitioned from industry to deputy secretary and ultimately to the public office he now holds. Mike has worked skillfully and successfully on a host of issues, from animal and poultry health to water quality and biofuels. He’s not afraid to put in the time and effort to get things done. As a result, his leadership and problem solving make a positive difference in the lives of every Iowan every day.

Brian, Peter, Mike and all ISA Award recipients are doers. They’re humble and focused on results and improving the lives of others. Their standard is excellence. They remind us that during chaos and turmoil, good people are getting good things done.

Here’s hoping others take note and follow their examples.