I’ve always loved Westerns – and the historical people behind the legends. I went to college just miles from the birthplace of Wyatt Earp, and toured his house at least a dozen times. I’ve studied the men and women who really walked the boardwalks and rode the trails of the American West. There are a few maxims from Western lore that actually serve me well in my leadership:
- "Take your time, but do it in a hurry." Wild Bill Hickok gave this advice about facing an
opponent in a gunfight. One of the most successful (and fastest) real gun fighters in history was of the opinion that too many people were so focused on drawing their gun fast, they pulled the trigger too quickly when faced with a threat and missed the all important first shot. His solution? "Slow
down, take aim, and squeeze off your shot…just don’t take too long to do it." In other words, don’t worry about being the first to shoot, but be the first to hit. Smooth is 2/3 of fast. In my experience, leadership is all about timing. If I pull the trigger too fast, I miss, and my family, or church or business suffers. If I take too long to decide and act, the opportunity slips away and morphs into a big problem… and I take it in the gut.
- "Always clean your gun before you turn in." The daily discipline of cleaning your pistol or rifle, oiling it, and reloading it pays off when you need it in hand in the middle of the night. The one time you don’t follow this discipline, your weapon misfires. My disciplines of time with God, exercise, journaling, counseling, and staying in community serve me well. Its when those disciplines break down that I misfire.
- "Feed and water your horse before you eat." A cowboy’s horse is his life…if his horse goes down there’s a good chance the cowboy won’t make it (that’s why they hung horse thieves!). I have to make sure I take care of the people around me. Loyalty is important. If you have a strong mustang in your life, a person you have grown to trust and depend on, do everything to care for that person. Feed and nourish them, before you meet your own needs. That is servant leadership.
- And finally – "Never touch another man’s hat"… this doesn’t have any leadership lessons, its just good advice!