Safety glasses? Check. High visibility gear? Check. Muddy boots? Check. Leadership skills? ... I don’t think those were on my list for a day of collecting data in the field! As Monsanto’s Field Testing Operations Intern in Monmouth, Il, I expected my days to be filled with sunshine and crops. There was plenty of that to go around, but underneath the daily tasks of data collection, a deeper theme began to emerge, namely leadership. Within my time at Monsanto, I met a variety of leaders and began to pay close attention to how they brought the best out of their teams.

As a researcher, it is in my nature to observe and analyze. Taking a good look at the leaders around me, I began to collect my data set of what makes a great leader. Tim, Program Lead at the Monmouth site, supervises employees in Monsanto’s breeding division while out in the field, and helps to make selections for the development of lines that will be commercially available to growers years down the road. As a leader, Tim works alongside the research associates—leading among them, not above them. This cultivates an attitude of respect from his employees that is necessary for a successful outcome. Matt, the Operations Lead, oversees the field testing portion of the research associates’ responsibilities. Matt showcases his leadership skills quietly, yet confidently, through valuing the input of each individual and making sure that everyone knows how important their work is to the Global Breeding organization. What’s unique about Matt’s leadership style is his ability to strategically push an employee’s personal development. Monmouth’s Site Lead, Eric, also has a subtle, but effective leadership style. While maintaining a vast working knowledge of all the site’s operations, Eric always makes time to help others.

I reached out to a few new colleagues that I met during my travel to Monsanto’s world headquarters in St. Louis to obtain their perspective on the definition of leadership. Joe, the NALAN South Testing Lead, summed it up best when he returned with a quote from John Maxwell, “Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” Susan, an Agronomic Research Managers Lead, agreed, noting that her best managers put their employees first. As I look at the many outstanding leaders across Monsanto, my research overwhelmingly showed that great leaders emphasize their employee’s value and empower others.

Armed with this knowledge, I did what science intends, and applied my research findings to my own internship. I am always eager to take on roles and learn new things. Adopting these philosophies led me to take advantage of an opportunity to work with test pilot technology in crop imaging. I also left my comfort zone to take the initiative of collecting data from several fields on my own. However, the most significant use of my new-found leadership skills was with the personal research project that I led. Within my project, I worked with a team of statisticians who came from a very different background than me. I learned how to delegate tasks, meet deadlines, and most importantly, acknowledge those team members who helped me complete the project.

Making others the focus of one’s leadership is key, and knowing how to empower others are just two qualities among many that define an effective leader. However, there is always room to continue personal development, even as a seasoned professional. My intern experience at Monsanto is simply the beginning of a life-long commitment to learning, but now I can check off some of those leadership skills!

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