Cows and New Gates

Cows, like people, are creatures of habit.

Dairy cows wear paths in fields from walking the same route to the barn, day after day. If you move the gate, they’ll walk to where the gate used to be and wonder why they can’t get through.

Whatever you do, don’t move the gate.

leaders go first

In order to get the herd to the barn, you must drive lead cows through the new gate. It won’t be easy. Cows don’t like new gates.

Entire herds follow, once lead cows go through new gates.

Go first:

Ineffective leaders expect less from themselves than they expect from others. They expect others to go first when it comes to risk, failure, and learning, for example.

Corporate teams who spend most of their time preventing mistakes and protecting image lead slow, fearful organizations.

Self-protective leaders lead cautious teams.

Leaders who take six weeks choosing a new color for the lobby shouldn’t expect agility and innovation from their teams.

Indecisive leaders lead sluggish teams.

Everyone waits for leaders to go first.


Teams follow your example before they follow your words.

Expect more from yourself than you expect from others.

  1. Step out first.
  2. Fail first.
  3. Get up after you stumble first.
  4. Learn first.
  5. Praise first.
  6. Apologize first.
  7. Open your heart first.
  8. Say, “I don’t know,” first.
  9. Say, “Let’s try,” first.
  10. Ask, “What are we learning,” first.

Exemplify the character, attitude, and behaviors you expect from others, first.

  1. Complain last. Ever see leaders complaining about complainers?
  2. Lash out last.
  3. Give up last.

Expectation and going first:

  1. If you expect courage, forgive first.
  2. If you expect innovation, fail and learn first.
  3. If you expect curiosity, ask questions first.
  4. If you expect energy, take action first.

Be what you expect others to be, first.

How might leaders exemplify what they expect from others in specific ways?