Riding for the brand.

Author:Wolski, F.E. "Wally"
Position:Leadership Corner - Viewpoint essay

When I was growing up in Wyoming, I really admired the cowboys. And I definitely wanted to grow up to be one. I think most kids did. It didn't hurt that this was back in the days of the Lone Ranger and Tonto, when every kid thought riding a horse and battling the bad guys was the best job anyone could ever have.

Of course, if you got close to the real cowboys, you'd hear some pretty rough language sometimes, and learn some lessons your Mother wished you hadn't. Not to mention hearing muttering and grousing in the bunk house at the end of the day about how somebody disagreed with the trail boss.

Every cowboy always thought he knew better than the trail boss.

But in spite of that, each and every morning, everyone saddled up and worked together to get the herd where they needed to be that day. No matter what their differences, no matter their disagreements on the trail, the cowboys ultimately trusted and respected the outfit they rode for. They took pride in it, and in their work. So they put their differences aside to get the job done. They had a unity of purpose. And they called it "riding for the brand."

In these days of growing political discord, economic struggles and continuous news coverage, we see almost nothing but disagreement. You can't turn on a television these days without coming across someone yelling, fighting or carrying on. And these disagreements aren't nice and civil, either. They used to be, but these days, they can get downright ugly, with language and gestures that might make the cowboys of my youth blush. Even the respected network news programs do it, yelling and name-calling and pointing fingers, challenging all those who dare to disagree with them. We have entered an era of "us" vs. "them."

So maybe it's no surprise that we come to think that this is the way things should be--that we should fight for our opinions and do whatever it takes to get what we want or need, no matter what the cost.

But is that a good thing? Is it even effective? Is it what we should be doing as leaders?

As cooperative leaders, I think we need to ask ourselves whether fighting for our way, our beliefs and our agenda is really in the best interests of the cooperatives we serve. Or whether we might just be better off to come together and make a compromise so that all our fellow cooperatives might be able to move forward together in a slightly different direction that will ultimately benefit everyone. I might not be totally happy, and my...

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