Welcome to the world of Servant Leadership!

This is a guest post from Art Barter.

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 11 of Farmer Able.

SUNNY’S SORE

By the third day, Sunny had made her way out into the yard to catch some sun. This was one of her favorite pastimes, she felt on account of her name. Her dad found her sitting in a chair, her face soaking in the sun.

Despite her obvious screw-up, the farmer hadn’t been of a mind to bring up matters, considering her injury. He’d been waiting to address the issue of “responsible driving.” He began the conversation taking the tack of sympathy. “Your shoulder feeling better?” he asked.

“Better, but pretty sore still.”

“You just let it rest and heal. Won’t be needing to use it for awhile.”

“What’s that mean?”

“I’m just saying you won’t be using it for anything strenuous.”

“Like chores?” Sunny meant it as a joke, but the hard-minded taskmaster didn’t take it that way.

“For a time, but I figure you could be back at those in a week or so.”

“A week?! That’s ridiculous. I can’t hardly lift a spoon, let alone feed animals.”

“You don’t need to get all huffy.”

Harry the horse, who was in the side lot, couldn’t help but listen in on this exchange. Oh no, he thought. I wonder what the farmer whips her with?

“Dad, I was just in a car wreck.”

In a car wreck . . . or caused a car wreck?” There it was. You could sense the laces on the gloves being untied.

“The county is doing construction out on the 318. They didn’t mark it properly. It sprang up on me and I swerved.”

“Sunny, you weren’t paying attention. Don’t deny it.”

“My shoulder hurts. I don’t need a lecture.”

“I’m not lecturing. I’m telling you like it is. When that shoulder’s back to working, there’s going to be extra work for you. But you’ll have the time. There’s no way I’m giving you the keys back to go gallivanting around.”

The clouds were mounting. “You know Dad,” Sunny said. “You’re right. It wasn’t that the pylons were misplaced.” Sunny had tears starting to well up. For a moment, Farmer Able thought he’d gotten through to his daughter. “I wasn’t paying attention. But here’s something you don’t know. I was just following your lead.”

“What?”

“I got mad just like you.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You’re always bellowin’ around, slammin’ doors when you can’t handle things.”

“Don’t sass me.”

“Just the opposite, Dad. I think you and I, now that I’m stuck here, will have more quality time together. Of course, I don’t know why I think that would happen. You spend more time with the farm, the animals and those ledgers than you’d ever spend with me. You could say I’m not even equal to a horse, a cow or a chicken!”

“I have responsibilities,” the farmer fumed.

“And obviously I’m not one of them.” Then she blurted out, bursting into tears, “I got the lead in the play. Do you even know that? I guess it wouldn’t matter. You weren’t going to come anyway. You don’t show up for me.”

This caught Farmer Able off guard. His sobbing daughter suddenly reminded him of the little girl he remembered as a toddler who had bumped her knee.

Sunny’s honesty continued to come in raw and unchecked. “It took a lot to get that role.” “That is …” the farmer searched for the right word, “certainly somethin’.”

“Somethin’, huh?” Her ache came right up through her cynicism. “Somethin ‘brainless,’ right?”

The farmer’s words came back at him like a dull echo.

Sunny wasn’t finished. “Dad, what you said hurt so bad. I didn’t know what to do. I just did what I see you doing when you have pains you can’t handle. I got angry and lost control.”

This final blow knocked the wind out of the good farmer. Sunny hurried into the house, her tears overwhelming her.

Later that evening, Harry the horse would tell the other animals about the whole incident, ending with, “… then he just stood there, saying nothing.” There was a general, “serves him right” grumble that came up from most things hoofed and horned and certainly feathered. After all, the farmer “getting his comeuppance” was what most of the animals longed for. Yes sir, a thing whipped becomes a whipper indeed.

*****

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

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