Rat Attack Taught Me About Leadership

What the Farm Taught Me About Leadership

My last blog post described the beginning and ending of my rodeo career. This blog post describes Dale vs. the Rats. It was the second life experience that convinced me to live in the city.

My father is one hard working tough son of a buck. On his first day of school, his mom asked if he could whip every boy in his school. Dad said, “All but one, and he’s tough….cause he cusses in front of women”. His favorite saying is, “I’ve had worse than that on the end of my nose”. He was riding on the hood of a car as a kid, slid off and lost most of the hide on his nose. This nose line is usually delivered to anyone who is complaining about anything. Pops is 85 years old and a second generation Oklahoma pioneer. He was late for his 85th birthday party because he was pulling a calf. When I say pulling a calf, I don’t mean straining his muscles below the knee. He was assisting a mother bovine in the birthing process.

Flashback to an earlier time, about 40 years earlier. I was 8-9 years old and was tagging along helping my father with his farm chores. We both walked up to the wheat bin. He hands me a stick and says, “When I open up this wheat bin, a bunch of rats are gonna come out, kill as many as you can”. I guess I thought he as kidding. The rats poured out of there like the 1971 movie Willard. Perhaps, this scene inspired the movie. Here’s a video clip from a Discovery channel episode called Infestation, just in case you want to see a bunch of rats to get a feel for what this experience was like.

I didn’t kill one rat! And these weren’t some skinny city rats. These rats had been eating at the all-you-can-eat wheat bin! They looked like a herd of possums to a 9 year old. I looked like the kid on Home Alone!

So what did I learn?

Well let me tell you about Strategic Moments. A Strategic Moment is a moment where if you don’t take the correct action, it will change everything. When my father handed me the stick, and told me what was about to happen, that was a strategic moment. My response should have been like Meatloaf said, “Stop right there!” “Are you kidding me? No, get that stick away from me, I don’t want any part of this!” “Does my mother know what you’re up to? She loves me and she’s told me so”. Of course, I was 9 and couldn’t put together that kind of persuasive articulate response. But nevertheless, remember the concept of strategic moments (SM). When a SM occurs, feel the fear and ask the tough questions. Feel the fear and do it anyway when it’s the right thing to do.

About Dale Perryman

Conduct workshops and seminars on leadership, management, and employee development. Founder of Center for Organizational Learning. Co-founder and creator of MyMeetingPro, a suite of apps for iPhone and iPad that create simply effective meetings. Specialties include leading change, meeting facilitation, developing R&D leadership, merger integration, and social media marketing. Enjoy playing poker and stock investing in spare time.
  • CoachTimi

    Thanks, Dale. A very vivid example about being prepared and takiing charge in a strategic moment! Yikes. Often if does feel like you are clearly not in charge when it is happening, but as you remind us “the rats stop here” when we are the one with the stick.

    • Thanks for stopping by Coach! What defines us as leaders is how we handle situations when we have very little control.