Heather Vidourek Leads From the Heart

At Farm Credit Mid-America, Heather Vidourek develops a new generation of leaders using a simple philosophy: care for those who care for us

Photo: Linda Doane Photography

Heather Vidourek has always favored the country. She grew up on her family’s small hobby farm in southern Ohio on a road flourishing with farmland, from tobacco and hay to corn and soybeans. Throughout her childhood, she would help her family raise their small collection of livestock and take any opportunity to help other farmers in the community. Then, for undergrad, Vidourek attended the University of Kentucky, worked as a college recruiter for the College of Agriculture, and eventually took a serendipitous position as a recruiter for Farm Credit Mid-America.

Vidourek’s passion for the industry was more than nostalgic. She was drawn to the farming community, specifically the grit and passion they held for their work and wanted to help in any way she could. “For them, it’s a way of life,” she says. “It’s the land they live on, often passed down through generations. They take the responsibility of producing food very seriously. They have a deep passion and commitment to that work.  Despite challenges, they persevere. They’ve got heart. And I deeply admire and respect what they do.”

Now the senior vice president of human capital at Farm Credit Mid-America and a member of the Association’s Executive Committee, Vidourek brings her own passion for the industry into her job every day, working to share this admiration with her team of similarly passionate professionals. Over the past years, Vidourek and her team have worked together to carry the history of the company into everything they do, deepening community within their own walls and promoting a new wave of leaders.

“What I learned through being a leader is that it’s not about being the answers person. It’s about getting the right, diverse group of people together who can create the right answer, and make things better together.”

Inspired by the generational change taking place at Farm Credit Mid-America, upper management decided to focus on succession and leadership development. As such, the team developed programs that center on a new leadership philosophy: “We are financial professionals who live our values, care for others, and achieve results.”

Using this philosophy to drive change, the company has adopted a new outlook on productivity and what it takes to accomplish tasks as a team rather than alone. As a financial lender chartered to secure the future of rural communities and agriculture, Farm Credit Mid-America helps farmers acquire funds to put toward their equipment and inputs, their land and home, and operating their business. By serving a company of farmers who are deeply ingrained in the value of community, the company itself mirrored this trait by adopting a culture of learning, mentoring, and open communication.

Heather Vidourek Farm Credit Mid-America
Heather Vidourek, Farm Credit Mid-AmericaPhoto: Linda Doane Photography

“We have, what we call, a ‘coaching culture,’” Vidourek explains. “That means that anybody in any position can coach any other person—up, down, across reporting lines and team lines—because we believe that if we do that with the spirit of helping other people, then we’ll all be better because of it.”

Greg Harris, CEO of Quantum Workplace, agrees. “Cultures thrive when continuous improvement is a priority, and Heather gets that,” Harris says. “Quantum Workplace is honored to help her and the Farm Credit Mid-America team make that a reality.”

To bolster this effort, Vidourek and her team adopted a program called “The Heart of Coaching.” Open to all employees, people join the program not only for the benefit of improved results, but also to learn how to be an effective, engaging coach to others. Through programs like these, Vidourek ultimately hopes to establish a culture that fosters leadership potential from all levels of the organization and starts from the moment a new employee is hired. In fact, every new leader at Farm Credit Mid-America attends a foundational course based on the book Leadership Pipeline by Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter, and James Noel.

“The course discusses how leaders need to make a turn from individual contributor to a leader of others, which includes shifting what they value, how they spend their time, and what skills are needed,” Vidourek explains. “What’s unique about how we deliver this program is that while we have an outside facilitator, our CEO Bill Johnson and I co-facilitate with this outside facilitator. We invest this time so that we can bring the content to life within our organization, get to know our up-and-coming leaders, and learn what’s going on in the organization from the leaders’ perspectives.”

In this same vein, Vidourek sponsors a grassroots group of Farm Credit Mid-America team members who connect, develop, and empower people through different experiences across Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The goal is to strengthen engagement across the four-state area by creating stronger bonds among all team members. Then, every other year, the collective hosts a summit where all members can meet in person to celebrate positive changes and connect over a mutual bond, all stemming from the values they work hard to preserve.

“We engage people across the organization to discover better solutions,” Vidourek says. “What I learned through being a leader is that it’s not about being the answers person or leading from the front. It’s about getting the right, diverse group of people together who can create the right answer, and make things better together. Everything we do centers on being honest, respectful, and committed to care for the people in rural communities and agriculture who provide so much for us.”