There is a popular country music song released a couple of years ago by singer Tim McGraw named “Humble and Kind.” If you have never heard it, I urge you to go onto the internet and listen to it.

You may be wondering what this song has to do with farm business planning.


In her article, “Neohumility/Humility and Business Leadership: Do they belong together?” Professor Pareena Lawrence examines the commonly accepted and newly emerging ideas of effective leadership, specifically the quality of humility.

Troy R. Schneider Troy R. Schneider, U.W. 1998, is a partner with Twohig, Rietbrock, Schneider & Halbach SC, Chilton, where he concentrates his practice in representing farm families and agribusinesses.

Lawrence specifically discusses “neohumility,” a new view of humility — that is, humility without weakness, and transformed to fit the business world. Lawrence characterizes neohumility as self-awareness, valuing others’ opinions, willingness to learn and change, sharing power, having the ability to hear the truth and admit mistakes, and working to create a culture of openness where dissent is encouraged in an environment of mutual trust and respect.

Lawrence notes that leadership values are the beliefs and standards that drive an individual. A credible leader is aware of his or her values and they serve as a guide or moral compass in his or her decision making. Lawrence notes that leadership values only matter if the leader translates those values into action. A leader saying he or she stands for one thing and then doing the other only leads to hypocrisy.

Three Dimensions of Humility

Lawrence, quoting an article in the journal Human Relations in 2005, describes humility as having three distinct dimensions, which are:

  • Self-awareness: The ability to understand one’s strength and weakness, getting real and staying real, not believing your own hype, and the ability to recognize and admit one’s mistakes.
  • Openness: Recognizing one’s limitations, being open to new ideas and knowledge, willingness to listen and learn from others, and having the ability to change. Being open means to encourage dissent and value truth over cover-ups, being willing to ask for and utilize the help of others.
  • Transcendence: The acceptance of greater than the self. This leads one away from self-aggrandizement and self-benefiting behavior towards valuing and appreciating others and their opinions and ideas in the organization.1

This concept of humility and leadership is awkward, and likely will be uncomfortable for most of your clients. Normally, when someone hears the word humility in the business setting it means that the person is weak, lacks confidence, or is a push-over. However, an effective leader can balance strength and humility.

In his book, The One Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard states: “People with humility do not think less of themselves, they just think of themselves less.”

Humility and Leadership in Farm Succession Planning

The concept of humility and leadership is particularly relevant in the farm succession planning area.

Often, farm succession planning involves conflicting pressures of equality, fairness, and harmony. Farm successors are at times impatient to gain control and farm parents can be reluctant to hand over the reins. The development of humility can help cut through the walls of family members’ egos and help them overcome conflicts with one another.

Family farm planning is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, areas a farm attorney can be involved in. It takes leadership and courage within the family, and the family farm’s attorney can play a key role in facilitating the process.


1Morris, J. Andrew, Brotheridge, Céleste M., & Urbanski, John C. 2005, “Bringing Humility to Leadership: Antecedents and Consequences of Leader Humility,” Human Relations, 58(10): 1323-1350.