The pigs are running the farm. So begins the story of Farmer Able. Everyone on his farm — people and animals alike — are downright downtrodden by him. He’s overbearing and compulsively obsessed with profits and productivity. He’s a typical top-down, power-based manager, forever tallying production numbers in his well-worn ledgers. But the more he pushes the hoofs and horns and humans, the more they dig in their heels. That is until one day when he hears a mysterious wind that whispers: “It’s not all about me.” Can he turn things around and begin attending to the needs of those on his farm, thus improving their attitudes and productivity?
The following is an excerpt from chapter 1 of Farmer Able.
Clarice the Cow
“The pigs are running the farm!”
That’s what Farmer Able grumbled to himself and even at times bellowed out loud.
This was the last thing any visitor might notice. After all, the pigs mostly laid in the shade doing nothing, so how could those lazy animals be running anything?
The only initiative they demonstrated was during feeding time. Then they sprang from their mud hole and oinked and squealed feverishly. Being fed by Farmer Able was all they were interested in. Just give them their slop and they were happy.
They were consumed by consuming.
But their piggish behavior didn’t remain with just them. No, this attitude, Farmer Able believed, had begun to afflict all the animals on the farm.
Having heard Farmer Able bellow about the pigs, she finally echoed this sentiment. “It’s all on account of those pigs,” is how she put it. “Those lazy pigs are getting away with doing nothing. Why, if I didn’t have to walk by them every day, I wouldn’t feel the way I do.”
She also hoof-pointed at Farmer Able for his unkindly comments. He, too, was a major source of her rage. In fact, she came to think that her drop in milk production was entirely the pigs’ and the farmer’s fault. And now she could add Bridgette to that list as well. “I don’t need any cow cheering me up because I’m not the one with the problem. She should look at herself. Her cheerfulness is because of her own set of problems that she’s trying to overcome. And I’ll have none of it.”
So Clarice left the milk barn even more determined to eat and chew less. She missed the eating and chewing because that’s what cows do best. Her four stomachs were definitely not full. Not only did this make her extremely hungry, but in addition, the whole thing gave her a sour stomach times four.
However, that didn’t matter. She was willing to put up with these “sacrifices” because she felt Farmer Able was doing her a great disservice. He wasn’t listening. His grumbling and complaining had made him deaf to her moos. In fact, she came to think he didn’t care for her at all.
“It’s all about me,” was how she thought of his attitude. The poor cow didn’t realize that same sour outlook had infected her.
Even the bell he’d hung around her neck came to irritate her. Before, she believed the bell and its sound were gleeful. It confirmed her place as part of the herd, as part of the farm. But it had become just a clanging in her ears. It reminded her of what an awful farm she lived and chewed on.
She imagined other farms and how wonderful they must be. But they were beyond the fence that held her in, so she didn’t let her mind go there. She restricted herself. And she continued restricting her milk production.
Yes, the pigs were running the farm.
Art Barter believes everyone can be great, because everyone can serve. To teach about the power of servant leadership, Art started in his own backyard by rebuilding the culture of the manufacturing company he bought, Datron World Communications. Art took Datron’s traditional power-led model and turned it upside down and the result was the international radio manufacturer grew from a $10 million company to a $200 million company in six years. Fueled by his passion for servant leadership, Art created the Servant Leadership Institute (SLI).
To learn more about Art and his new Servant Leadership Journal, as well as his book on servant leadership, Farmer Able: A Fable About Servant Leadership Transforming Organizations And People From The Inside Out, endorsed by Stephen M.R. Covey, Ken Blanchard , and John C. Maxwell , visit www.servantleadershipinstitute.com .