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Friday, June 29, 2012

Leadership Lessons from the Saddle

"Thank God I'm A Country Boy" (John Denver)

Some of you might not know this, but I am a country boy at heart, through and through. I grew up on a farm that my dad still operates. He raises dry land wheat and beef cattle.

My dad's farmed his whole life, been the local Cattleman's Association President more than once and is as cowboy as anyone I know.
My mom grew up riding horses to get out of household chores and married my dad because "he had a place for my horse."
My little brother will be going back to the farm next year with a degree in Animal Reproduction. 
My sister shows horses competitively across the country.

 Photo courtesy of Kevin Sieverkropp

Odd Man Out

Let's just say I'm the odd man out. ."  I don't plan on going back to the farm and I don't ride horses every day (my sister does...) I still wear wranglers and a cowboy hat (my wife rolls her eyes when I put it on) and living in town drives me crazy. There's not much I love more than being out in the sagebrush hunting deer and coyotes and when I think of Las Vegas I think of the NFR. I love being a country boy, its who I am!  For awhile in my teen years I fought it, but I always come back to Wranglers, Rodeos, George Strait, and wide open range land!
Growing up on a farm teaches you a million life lessons (no really, an even million, I counted!), if you'll just take the time to notice.

Leadership Lessons from the Saddle

Today I wanna share some Leadership Lessons from the Saddle.  Like I said, I can ride a horse, and could probably convince you I knew what I was doing, but I don't hold a candle to the hundreds (literally!) of ribbons and trophies my baby sister has won! 

But here are some things I've learned...

1. Just because you hold the reins...

When you ride a horse, you're in control. The bridle on the horse's head and the bit in his mouth allows you to steer him where you'd like to go. You have a spurs and a saddle. You're in control.

Or are you?

If the horse doesn't want to do something, he won't. If you upset him, startle him, mistreat him, bridle and spurs or not, you're going to take a one way flight courtesy of Buckin' Bronc Airlines. And it ain't fun!

Likewise in leadership, you may have a title, a company car, a name plate on the desk in your corner office and even a rubber tree plant next to the door but if you don't treat your team right, if you mistreat them, don't communicate or trust them, you ain't getting where you wanna go.

2. A bucket of grain.

Believe it or not, most horses would prefer to stay in the pasture, eat, and play rather than be rode. Hard to believe, I know! And sometimes it's all but impossible to catch one when you want to ride him! But if you'll bring a little gallon coffee can with a few oats in the bottom and shake it... That horse will come to you at a gallup.

Zig Ziglar says it best,

"you can have anything you want if you'll help enough other people get what they want."
As a leader don't chase down your team, trying to corner them into what you want them to do. Try a bucket of oats...find out what they want, what motivates them, and help them achieve it! I'm not saying manipulate, I'm saying care about them. And if you'll do so, they will help you accomplish what you want to accomplish as well!

3. It's just a branch!

Sometimes a horse, for no reason, will get freaked out by something totally normal, like a tree branch, flag, mailbox, etc. He will start walking sideways away from it, prancing around and maybe even spook and run. When a horse gets startled, the best thing you can do is talk to him. Reassure him, get him to go over to what's frightening him and check it out.
Communicate with your team. Reassure them. Find out what concerns they have, work through those concerns with them. Help them see that they can face whatever tree branch or mailbox has them worked up!
There's a bunch more lessons I could share, and maybe another day I will, but until then I hope the next time you see someone riding a horse you'll think of how you lead your team!
Question: What experiences in your life can you draw leadership lessons from? 
If you appreciate these insights, please share them in all your social circles!
Twitter: @Skropp2


  1. Great post, Mark! I grew up in the country, but just a nice plat on the corner of a hog farm. Still enjoy the peaceful, laid back life that it brings. I also like the new layout of your blog--much easier to read your post!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read it Nick! It's neat how many great lessons to can distill from seemingly normal everyday life if you'll just take the time to look!!

  2. LOVE the photo and the insights. I've taken that one way flight courtesy of Buckin' Bronc and do not care to repeat. That's the extent of my horse-riding experience. Very colorful imagery here. Great post!!!!

    1. Thanks Lily. That's my little brother (little...he's about 5 inches taller!), his horse and dog out riding on our family farm!
      It's amazing the lessons we can glean from life if we'll just look! Thanks for "riding along" with me on the blog!