Unselfish leadership, in this time of coronavirus, is being recognized for its paramount importance. Public safety officials, health care workers, and educational leaders are putting themselves last as they care for the most vulnerable among us. In recent times we have been exposed to novel ideas like “leading from behind” as opposed to “leading from the front,” and reminded of  the roles of “vocal leadership,” “quiet leadership” and “leadership by example.”  It is the latter on which I will focus my comments.

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Consistent, quiet leadership is the most valuable of all.

Vocal manifestation of leadership may be an important ingredient in achieving alignment against a common enemy such as the deadly germ that has invaded our society, but words without action only contribute to chaos. Where consistent, quiet, example-oriented leadership is most evident to me is in rural America: Those miles of roads that wind endlessly through what some characterize as “flyover country,” what others call “God’s Country,” and on which all depend for its most precious commodity – food. It is those selfless warriors who respond every day to the rhythm of Mother Nature and to the needs of hundreds of millions of Americans to whom I pay tribute.

 

This kind of leadership continues to address our basic needs.

As I sat pensively early this morning contemplating the unprecedented circumstances in which we find the nation, I visualized events that were being repeated thousands of times across the heartland — a farmer riding off to a foggy field in the dawning hours of the morning, coffee in hand, farm radio blaring, dedicated to preparing that field for seed to later sprout and flourish; the Rural Electric Coop lineman climbing a pole cold with the night’s freeze, to repair ice storm damage and restore power to the homes, barns, and other power requirements for living, farming, raising livestock; the Agriculture Cooperative employee driving into the grain elevator to prepare to receive and transport the grain to literally put bread on our tables and to support their grower members.

These people are our own unique First Responders. Nature has its cycle and will not permit isolation for a season for these responders. The people who produce and supply our food must toil every day to meet the demanding standards of Mother Nature and the global needs of those who are hungry.

 

Today, we need the leadership of these unsung heroes more than ever.

Difficult circumstances may create heroes. More often, they reveal existing, unrecognized heroes: police, firefighters, other first responders, soldiers, sailors, marines, doctors. To that list we should add those who quietly commit their lives to producing what ultimately appears on the grocery shelves and nurtures our families. It never occurs to us that the shelves can be empty until we experience it. However, we know we can count on those grocery shelves being re-filled again thanks to those quiet, committed Soldiers of the Soil, Harborers of the Herds, the Real Milkwomen and men, and those who support them by committing themselves every day to providing for the rest of us. Today, they serve with no cheering crowds, no television interviews, no adoration as they go about their chores. They are heroes. They, too, are our first responders.

As we are required to isolate or self-isolate, we can do so confident that these heroes will be on the job, in the barns, fields, grain elevators, and warehouses – and that our grocery shelves will continue to be full. SALUTE!

 

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