Cornbread Thinks: Leading and Measuring

I was penning 600 head of steers once. I needed them to go in a gate they had been in and out 2,010 times that winter. The uprights were tied together at the top with drill pipe. It was a bright day, and that drill pipe cast a shadow across the mouth of the alley. It might as well have been the Palo Duro Canyon. They ain’t going. Fortunately, I had a real cowboy, a geezer, heppin’ us.

He eased through the middle of them and rode down the alley a ways. He stopped for a bit with his horse’s tail to the cattle, then slow walked down the alley. When he got gone about 50 foot, the first steer stepped over the shadow and it was a stampede. We were never going to make those steers do anything that morning, but they were sure ready to be led.

I have been fortunate to work with some great leaders, one of which was Tom Landry. I sat on a youth home board with him for several years. I’m good friends with many of his players. Tom Landry’s leadership power was his standards. They were high, for himself and his players. The players’ greatest fear was to disappoint Coach Landry. I disappointed him once. He never said a word. He just looked at me. I can see his eyes to this day. I have no words to convey how it made me feel about myself.

Both of these incidents are about leadership. A destination. Setting a standard, describing exactly what is a success. Forming many pieces into one piece. Being the example. Showing, not telling. Getting people to want what you want, and you want what they want, all without anger or abuse. The easy way. The long-term way.

Could you draw a map for somebody if you didn’t know where they wanted to go? Could you build a barn without a tape measure?

Back in the day, the cavalry were the eyes of the generals. The movies turned them into first responders – shock troops to rush in and save the day. Nope. They were to locate the enemy, measure their strength, find weaknesses, scout terrain, river crossings and such, while gathering all pertinent information for a battle commander to make a plan.

The National Cutting Horse Association has a lot of horses, but no cavalry. Nearly all information regarding members’ wants and desires comes from directors and executive committee members’ personal interaction with members. Most of this is at shows with active cutters who hunt them up to voice their opinion. They use words like “everybody” and “most” when in reality, it is the handful of people who think like them and agree with them. Too many members’ voices never get heard. Our cavalry is doing its scouting from the cook tent. This does not, in itself, make them wrong, but it does not guarantee they are correct. All that dust might be troop movement, or it might also be a handful of troopers dragging piles of brush.

We don’t know what we don’t know. Surveying the entire membership first, then reaching out to the people we have no idea about will learn us a lot. Question: What is our product? Since inception and still today it appears to be cutting horses. Most all our marketing resources go to attract people who will buy a horse. That is a small universe without enough gravitational pull to attract big-money sponsors. From the day I walked in the door, I have thought this is a spectator sport. We do little to attract spectators, to create fans. We don’t even invite people to come watch. People who will never own a horse but will come watch. There’s not enough room here to counter the negatives, but I will say, there really aren’t any. During my time as a cutter, several spectator sports have been born and raised to become viable things, most of which I wouldn’t walk across the street to see.

We have a lot of undone chores, deferred maintenance and opportunities that need addressing. We need more decisions based on principles instead of personalities. We need roadmaps and blueprints based on real research. We need an active cavalry that gets way out there. The cost of surveying is cited as a “no-go.” That is like the lost truck driver that doesn’t want to stop and ask directions because he is making such good time…

Cornbread Thinks: Measure twice, cut once.