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Christmas Morning Milking

What Christmas cows taught me about leadership

My cows were definitely cuter than these.

Not every venture you undertake will be successful.

I believe that if you are able to learn from it, then it was at least valuable. I’ve had countless experiences like this that have resulted in the learning of life and leadership lessons.

Many years ago, an associate and I decided to partake in a bit of property development. We weren’t experts — we just thought we could. We got out with our shirts still on, but without making much money. The value I got out of this venture was less financial and more personal.

The property that we bought was a large farm on the edge of town. Where I come from we call it a town supply dairy farm. In other words, we milked dairy cows year round so that we could supply the local town with milk daily. We hired a sharemilker, or farm manager, to run the herd and the farm for us. I wanted to be as involved in the property as I could, so I often milked the cows alongside him.

The cows did not fit in these gift boxes.

As Christmas time approached, it became clear to me that as his boss, I should do something good for him. I made the decision to show up at the farm on Christmas morning, and send him home to his wife and children. I thought nothing of it, other than that it was a nice thing to do and since I was capable of doing the milking myself, I would.

What I underestimated was the reaction that followed. I didn’t realize how impactful that would be on him. At the time, I was a single man with no children at home. This was just something I thought I could do for him as it was three hours of my time. But he was a young father with two young children and here is the man that owns the farm, showing up Christmas morning, sending him home to his family at five o’clock in the morning on a special day and doing his job for him so that he could enjoy a unique and special time with his children while they were still young.

If there had been this much snow, I might have changed my mind.

Almost every time we interacted thereafter, he could not help but bring it up. Every time I would see his wife at the farm, she would thank me for that experience. This man was a career dairy farmer. Every morning, every afternoon, three hundred sixty five days of the year, he was at the farm, working to support his wife and children. To say family time was limited would be an understatement.

Now I’m not sharing this story to pat myself on the back. I didn’t think much beyond that it was something nice I could do for him, something to check off my “Christmas checklist.”

In return, it taught me a wonderful lesson, which is true leaders engage with their people, are prepared to get their hands dirty, step in and do for their people what their people are clearly qualified enough to do, but allows them to be able to do something that is important to them.

They are the leaders that people want to value.

They are the leaders that people want to follow.

They are leaders that create lasting impressions and transformational opportunities for their people.

I don’t want to overstate the influence of my Christmas morning milking, but it was a wonderful example to me of the impact someone who is higher in the vertical food chain can have on someone lower in the vertical food chain. Real leaders are prepared to milk to the cows on Christmas morning, when it is the right thing to do. Look for those opportunities as you lead and inspire, and attempt to have your team follow you.

Aaron Webber is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Webber Investments LLC, as well as a Managing Partner at Madison Wall Agencies.

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Aaron Webber

Aaron Webber

Chairman and CEO, Webber Investments. Partner at Idea Booth/BGO.