Agricultural leadership programs plant the seeds for banking leadership

Ag lenders won’t hesitate to tell you they’re a different breed than other bankers—their leadership development programs are just as unique.

At the recent ABA Agricultural Bankers Conference in Omaha, successful graduates from some of the nation’s leading agricultural leadership development programs shared their transformative experiences and made the case for why ag bankers should consider participating. The graduates all agreed the leadership programs grew their confidence and enhanced their communication, listening and problem-solving skills.

They also expanded their knowledge of ag issues and the lawmaking process on the state and federal levels. Programs like the South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership Program (SDARL) and the Nebraska LEAD Program send participants to Washington, D.C., to meet and engage with policymakers on Capitol Hill.

“The time we get to spend with our congressional delegation is so very important. That’s one of the things these types of programs do, it gets our foot in the door and builds those relationships early on,” according to Nebraska LEAD Program Director Terry Hejny, the president and COO of the Nebraska Agricultural Leadership Council.

Travel with these programs can also take bankers to another country. These international experiences explore the similarities and differences between U.S. farms and foreign operations, as well as the global nature of agriculture, the graduates noted. Nebraska LEAD alumni Nora Turner, the vice president of loan operations at Union Bank & Trust Co., said her class visited Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.

“We had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the agriculture, the government and the culture,” Turner said.

The graduates said they carried the lessons learned from these agricultural leadership development programs back to their banks, communities and careers.