Just drag your feet, son...
It seems like yesterday that I was struggling with choosing a topic for my first message for the Journal of Swine Health and Production. Now here I am, pecking out the final one! While it seems the deadlines come too quickly, it has been a great experience to reflect on those things that are most important in our lives. Since this is my last message, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on leadership.
I've discovered that "leadership" means different things to different people. There is no doubt, our organization has been blessed with an outstanding lineup of colleagues who have been willing to make the commitment of their time and talents for the betterment of the AASV and our profession. I am not just talking about those who have served on the board or as officers! Leaders can be found throughout the AASV membership and staff. All of them have some things in common, but the way they approach their duties has varied (as it should). To be certain, all have left (or will leave) their mark on the profession and the AASV. We have untold reserves among our ranks that are as yet untapped. All we have to do in most cases is simply ask.
As I pondered the various aspects of leadership, I ran across some great quotations on leadership and work. A recent book by Senator Elizabeth Dole1 (R-NC), titled Hearts Touched with Fire, was a great resource. This book is filled with great quotes that Senator Dole has accumulated over a lifetime of preparing for public speaking. I was specifically looking for quotes on leadership for this message. However, in the AASV, our work and leadership duties are so intertwined that I had to include a quote on work by Teddy Roosevelt.
These are just a few of my favorites. What struck me as I read these quotes from so many great people is the variety of opinions on leadership!
"Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy." Norman Schwartzkopf.
"We are face to face with our destiny, and we must meet it with a high and resolute courage. For ours is the life of action, of strenuous performance of duty. Let us live in the harness, striving mightily. Let us run the risk of wearing out rather than rusting out." Theodore Roosevelt.
"The truth is that many people set rules to keep from making decisions. Not me. I don't want to be a manager or a dictator. I want to be a leader and leadership is ongoing, adjustable, flexible, and dynamic." Mike Krzyzewski.
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." Abraham Lincoln.
"A great leader is not necessarily one who does the greatest things. He is the one who gets the people to do the greatest things." Ronald Reagan.
"There is no limit to what a man can accomplish when he doesn't care who gets the credit." A sign in the Reagan Oval Office.
I have to admit that there were times during the past 2 years when it seemed as though I would never get everything done. Now I see how ridiculous that thought was! Everything gets done because the AASV has such a great staff and members willing to serve and give of their time, talents, and possessions.
Did I accomplish everything I thought I would? Not even close! But then again, numerous unexpected issues and items that emerged were positive for the association and our members. Don't get me wrong! "Good things" rarely just happen. Someone, often behind the scenes, has laid a foundation, usually as a result of a lot of hard work and invested time and talents. I believe this is the essence of leadership. To lead is to serve and to serve well is to work at something you enjoy doing every day.
For the most part, serving and leading the AASV is like "preaching to the choir." The vast majority of the AASV are members because they, too, are interested in and enthused about our profession and are committed to lifelong learning. I have heard it said that those who need help the most seek it the least. At AASV, our members need the least help, but are the first ones to the trough for education and are the first to offer help to those in need. The members of AASV make leading a joy.
As for the future, the AASV will never have a shortage of leadership, because great leaders permeate our membership and all we have to do is find them. One summer, growing up on the farm, my Dad and I were helping a neighbor work his calves. The neighbor's place was far from a show place and the working facilities were lousy. In fact, there was junk everywhere. It looked as though our neighbor had never picked up anything. Before we could even gather the calves, Dad and I had to repair the corral and chute. I found myself in need of a piece of baling wire. When I asked Dad for some, he shook his head and dead-panned: "Just drag your feet, son. Just drag your feet."
So if you are in need of leadership, find a gathering of the AASV and "just drag your feet, son. Just drag your feet."
1. Dole E. Hearts Touched with Fire. New York, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers; 2004.
-- John Waddell