3 Leadership Lessons from a Norwegian Bachelor Farmer

Uncle Harold was a Norwegian bachelor farmer from Central Minnesota, about 40 miles west of Lake Wobegon. He was a patient, gentle man, and it showed in his unique method of bringing the cows in from the pasture.

Typically a farmer will get around behind the cows and drive them towards the barn. But Harold would go out to the pasture, gently get the cows’ attention and begin walking back to the barn, with the cows following behind. If the cows stopped to graze for a while, Harold would sit down and smoke his pipe, and wait. When the cows were ready to continue he would get up and start walking towards the barn again.

Uncle Harold was just going out to get the cows, but he provided a beautiful model of leadership.

1. Too often people think they’re leading when all they’re doing is driving the herd.

2. What a difference it makes when the destination is reached, and the followers are there because they chose to be; because they understand it’s where they need to be; because they trust the one they chose to follow.

3. How you work with the cow in the barn determines your ability to lead the herd in the pasture.

“The leader leads, and the boss drives.”  Theodore Roosevelt


So, what do you want to be when you grow up?

If you are at a family gathering that includes young children over the holidays, chances are you will hear an adult ask a child, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Interestingly, when adults ask that question they are really asking, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” or more specifically, “What occupation are you going to have?”  This is based on the notion that it is what we do, not who we are, that defines us.

Kids will oblige by answering the question with teacher, policeman, baseball player, zookeeper, dancer, etc.  But if you pay close attention, you will realize that they are in fact answering the stated question.  They are saying what they want to do, but it reveals what they want to be.  I want to be daring.  I want to be important.  I want to be influential.  I want to be interesting.  I want to be loving and caring.  I want to be loved.

I want to be who I am!

When I was a kid there was a time I told people I wanted to be an ice cream salesman when I grew up.  Reflecting back I realize that I was actually saying I wanted to be like Arne, the nice man that delivered ice cream to our home once a month.  Ironically I became an ice cream salesman when I ‘grew up.’  It was the shortest career I ever had, I lasted one day.

Take a moment and ask yourself the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”  Go ahead and answer it with an occupation or an activity.  If you could do anything you wanted, what would it be?  Once you have decided what you would like to do, ponder what this means.  What does it say about you?  What does what you want to do tell you about who you want to be?

Whether you are actually doing what you want to or not, consider another question, “How in what I am doing can I live out who I am, and become more of who I want to be?”

So, what do you want to be when you grow up?


Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Not leading but yet a leader

Anyone following

“If you think you’re leading
and nobody is following,
then all you’re doing
is taking a walk.”  Anon.

This quotation has long been a favorite of mine.  I agree that if nobody is following, you’re not leading.  It’s a simple test for self-assessment of your leadership.

However, dawn recently broke over the proverbial Marblehead and it occurred to me that I was making an assumption.  I was taking it a step further and thinking that if you’re not leading then you’re not a leader.  Hence, my interpretation was that if nobody is following, you are not a leader.

I still agree with the quotation, but not with the assumption I tacked on.  A firefighter is still a firefighter even when they’re not fighting fires.  A leader is still a leader even when they’re not leading.  A leader is something to be, it’s a matter of character.  Leadership is something to do, it is character manifested in action.

A great leader will recognize when a situation calls upon them to lead, and they will be ready, and they will step forward to lead.  However, they also know when to follow.  There may well be times when they are not leading at all, but they are still leaders.

Look behind.  If no one is following, you’re not leading.  That’s ok.  Look ahead.  Who are you following?  Look inside.  Are you a leader?  Are you prepared for leadership?  The moment will call.

Let’s BEgin

With this initial post, a new journey BEgins.  This blog will focus primarily on leadership and personal fulfillment.  These are two items that go hand in hand, not separate topics.  There is a great deal of information readily available on what we should DO to be a leader, or DO to find personal fulfillment for ourselves and others.  But it really starts with who we are and who we want to BE.


Set aside the to-do list for a moment and focus first on the to-be list.  Be clear on who you are, and who you want to be.

 “Leadership is a matter of how to be not how to do.” Frances Hesselbein

“One danger of doing is completion. The beauty of being is that becoming is a delightful journey.” Dan Rockwell

Be you.

When you tackle the to-do list, let your work be an out-pouring and reflection of who you are.

“I have always wanted to be somebody, but I see now I should have been more specific.” Lily Tomlin

“Be Yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Oscar Wilde

“Your most important job is to be you. Because that’s something nobody else can do. … Live each moment with the courage of your uniqueness. Be amazing at being you.” Ralph Marston

Be a leader.

There comes a time for each of us to lead.  When your time comes, don’t let the only thing stopping you be you.

“Leadership is much more an art, a belief, a condition of the heart, than a set of things to do.” Max DePree

“Throw yourself into life as someone who makes a difference, accepting that you may not understand how or why.” Benjamin Zander

Leadership isn’t top-down. That’s position. Leadership is inside-out. That’s passion.

I have been sharing my ideas on Twitter, as in the last quote above, and have been learning greatly from others.  With this blog I hope to expand the conversation, explain some of the ideas I have squeezed into 140 characters or less and learn all the more from you.

If we haven’t already met on Twitter, I invite you to join in the conversation there as well.  I can be found as @Cybuhr.

Let the journey BEgin.  Please, join me.