Dave Kier: Leaders Create the Want

IBEC Board member, business leader and entrepreneur Dave Kier shares more insights and leadership.

Larry W. Sharp, BAM Support Specialist, IBEC Ventures


There are many aspects of my career as a leader I wish I could go back and change, but there were a few areas God revealed to me that were very good for us. I have spoken before of that time in our company when we were building momentum fast. We had the best of nutritionists help us create stellar feed programs. We had an insatiable appetite to learn how our quality impacted the animal’s performance. We were learning continuous quality improvement principles to lower costs while improving quality. We learned how to manage money in a way that amazed our accounting firm. We were becoming respectfully profitable in an industry with shrinking margins. We were growing almost too fast, and I do mean “we”, for the company was not a one man show.

In looking back, I think one of the reasons that ignited the co-workers to become a team was when at a company meeting, I put up a map of the world and told them of their role in feeding thousands, if not millions around the world. I pointed out the semi loads of meat leaving every day from the local turkey and pork processing plants, some of which came from our customers, and how many people each truck load feeds. Additionally, I pointed out that our customers provided meat to other processing plants as well. I then put a picture of one of our trucks on the screen and showed them that it’s not feed in that truck, but nutrients, and listed all the nutrients by name and quantity that were essential to build protein. There was complete silence in the room, as all grasped the significance of their role in producing protein to feed the world. I then reminded them that this was why I pushed so hard to be the very best supplier of nutrients. Those were fun times!

Antoine de Saint Exupery, a French aviator and author, once wrote: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”. Managers get other people to do. Leaders get others to want to do. You may want to re-read that last line. My problem came as we grew to need more experienced leaders who rose up the ladder in their former organizations by getting the staff “to do”. Some wanted lists of goals, others wanted to add layers of supervisors, but rare was the one who understood how to stimulate the capacities within the team they were responsible for.

Not to sound boastful, but common was the request made of me to let leaders go so they could work directly with me again. I have observed that a leader who thinks he or she needs layers of supervisors under them do so because they don’t know how to work with those “on the line”. People want to do well. People want to know they are doing well. I valued my co-workers, and in valuing them, I wanted them to know the significance of their work. We all want to be significant. In this sterile world of the internet, what is lacking are meaningful relationships. People need to know they have purpose and are valued. Isn’t this attribute from our Heavenly Father?

The old way of managing was managing for results as budgets, goals, incentive programs, and employee reviews. The utilization of such performance metrics made work more difficult than needed. These are helpful, but if over emphasized, this carrot on the stick approach is rarely effective in the long term, and worse, can become counterproductive. When you read God’s spoken word written for us, you note how often is presented the yearning to live the forgiven life, the life at peace with our Creator, a life of abiding joy, a life part of the big picture of God’s great Kingdom. Then, much was said on how to become “successful” in His Kingdom. Heaven is the final destination, but we journey now as we walk through life with our Lord and Savior. As we had a quality program that defined what high quality (low variation) feed was, the Lord has shown us how to live a high quality (steadfast) and holy life that produces the best results.

If you are one who leads by setting endless goals, budgets, objectives, and all other carrot type leadership styles, maybe you need to reconsider your methods to instead create the atmosphere where the staff sees the big picture. Why are they doing what they do every day? Then, you must roll up your sleeves and help them be successful at their work. Bear in mind, God didn’t merely set before us the prize. He gave us His indwelling Spirit to help us live out the forgiven life.  Help them see that what they are doing is not merely a job, but it is for a purpose bigger than themselves, a purpose that demands excellence from them – and you.

Managers get people to do. Leaders get people to want to do. Something to remember.

“For you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9 NLT®                                                                           

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