Friday, August 7, 2015

The "Cow Path"

Cattle trail
(Photo credit: Steve Baccon)
Cow Path

One day thru the primeval wood
A calf walked home, as good calves should,
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail, as all calves do.
Since then three hundred years have fled,
And I infer, the calf is dead;
But still behind he left his trail,
And thereon hangs my mortal tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way,
And then a wise bell-weather sheep
Sliding into a rut now deep,
Pursued that trail over hill and glade
Thru those old woods a path was made.

And many men wound in and out,
And dodged and turned and bent about,
and uttered words of righteous wrath
Because “twas such a crooked path”
But still they follow-do not laugh-
The first migrations of that calf.

The forest became a lane
That bent and turned and turned again;
This crooked lane became a road
where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And travelled some three miles in one.

The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The village road became a street,
And this, before the men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare.

And soon a central street was this
In a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Followed the wanderings of this calf.

Each day a hundred thousand strong
Followed this zigzag calf along;
And over his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.

A hundred thousand men were led
By one poor calf, three centuries dead.
For just such reverence is lent
To well established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach
Were I ordained and called to preach.

For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf paths of the mind;
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.

– Sam Walter Foss

Leadership Discussions for the "Cow Path"

  1. How did the calf positively and negatively influence others?
  2. Can leadership occur without the intent to influence? 
  3. What are the pros and cons of following another person's lead without collecting your own situation awareness?
  4. How can complacency and group think affect an organization's operations?
  5. How does "Cow Path"relate to the 2015 Wildland Fire Leadership Campaign - Followership is Leadership? Was the cow a follower or a leader? Can you lead without a title or authority to do so? What is "conformity bias" and how can it affect you and your team?
  6. Does your team or organization operate as "creatures of habit"? Are you hearing statements like "We've always done it this way."? What are you doing to address such comments? Why is it important to address such comments?
  7. The term "new normal" is heard across the wildland fire service. Have we changed the way we conduct fire operations, training, and workforce development to compensate for this change?
  8. What are you doing personally to avoid the cow paths of life? 
  9. What are you doing as a fire leader to ensure that innovation, creativity and effective decision making are built into the fabric of your culture?
  10. Self-awareness is the starting point for leadership development. What will you do differently having read "Cow Path"?

(Photo credit: Dynamic Graphics)
"The starting point for leadership development is self-awareness." (p. 59)

For a slightly different look at a similar topic and from more of the leadership perspective of how to lead your team beyond the status quo, read Dan Rockwell's "Cows and New Gates." 
  • 2015 Wildland Fire Leadership Campaign logo

No comments: