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Cattle Drive Management

Have you ever watched footage of a good old fashioned cattle drive? It's a pretty simple process on the surface.

Step 1 - Get a horse.
Step 2 - Get some cattle.
Step 3 - Run around the cattle with the horse until they start going in the direction you wish.
Step 4 - When some of the cattle start moving in the wrong direction ride out and chase them back in.


I know a lot of businesses that run like a cattle drive. It doesn't work so well. In the business context it looks something like this:

Step 1 - Become a leader.
Step 2 - Attract some followers.
Step 3 - Run around and make noise until people start moving.
Step 4 - Yell at the people who aren't going in the right direction.


Let's make it simple:

  • Just because you have the horse (read: leadership role) doesn't make you the leader. The cattle don't have to listen and neither do your followers.
  • Just because you have cattle doesn't mean they are going to follow. Cattle are not that smart. People are. People will seek the option that best preserves their own interests.
  • Getting people moving can happen without ever establishing a clear destination. The cattle don't need one. People do. The hardest and most important thing you do as a leader is cast, clarify, and steward the future vision of the organization.
  • If people are not following your direction and getting off the wagon trail it is ALWAYS one of two things. They either don't know the vision OR they don't agree with the vision. ALWAYS.

I have worked with an incredible number of organizations that were either dysfunctional or exceptional. When they work, the vision is clear and embraced. When they don't work, the vision is muddy or has been rejected.

You can always try lassoing the uncooperative and force compliance. It's works well with cattle. Not so well with leaders.

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