Thank Like a Leader

By Gary Matteson
May 12, 2015

I’ve been to a lot of leadership seminars, courses, and conferences over the years as either a trainee or a presenter.  My preference is for those events that allow some of each: being at times a presenter and otherwise just another trainee. Incognito among the audience there are always new lessons to be learned, and some valuable enough to pass along.

So here it is.  If you want to act like a leader, learn to say “thank you.”  On a day-to-day level, leaders spend a lot of time saying thank you to those who deserve special recognition in front of the group.  We convene audiences, arrange banquets, and throw parties to provide the opportunity to say thanks to those who work on our behalf.  Leaders are there to be the primary thank-youers, the people who represent us, the people who find the right words to remind us of our own purpose and sense of mission even as we rise in applause for the individual being acknowledged with an award.

The best learning experiences combine hands on experience (how-to), personal commitment (want-to), and a clear sense of mission (why-to). The photo above shows how this strategy is utilized at American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmer and Rancher conferences as a way to train young leaders to say thank you.  Attendees are encouraged to express appreciation for the event on poster-sized thank you notes, which are then sent to sponsors such as Farm Credit.

Like a Facebook post, it’s to the point, personal, and public all at the same time.  Yet like an old-fashioned thank you note, it requires a moment of thoughtfulness and effort.  It’s clever and it’s appreciated for the message—and as a deeper lesson for aspiring young farmers and ranchers in how to thank like a leader.


About Gary Matteson
Gary Matteson knows agriculture first hand. Until recently he was a small farmer operating a greenhouse business in Epsom, New Hampshire. Matteson now works at the Farm Credit Council, the trade association for the nationwide Farm Credit System. He is an advocate for young, beginning, small, and minority farmer outreach programs. Matteson is responsible for spreading best practices for beginning farmer lending and training among Farm Credit Associations, generating new program ideas to benefit them. In addition to working directly with farm groups, Matteson is active in policy related to new entrants to farming. He now serves on the USDA Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers.