The case of Farmer Gow and his Nazi cows

January 7, 2015

A British farmer was forced to cull a herd of cows genetically modified for aggressive behaviour as part of the Third Reich’s cultural propaganda programme

According to the Independent, [January 5th, 2015] The Nazis saw some bizarre symbolic significance in breeding cattle for the purpose of obtaining prized characteristics of muscularity  and ferocity.  There is something Wagnerian in the efforts of the German brothers Heinz and Lutz Heck who in the 1920s attempted to recreate a species of extinct ancient wild bulls, from the closest available breed identified as Spanish fighting cattle.

Derek and the Heck cows

Nearly a hundred years later, in 2009,  An English farmer, Derek Gow, introduced a small herd  into his West Devon dairy farm.  Sadly, the efforts of the brothers Heck had achieved some of the required results on his acquired livestock.  Most of the animals were uncontrollable, and were reported as having ‘repeatedly tried to kill farm workers’.

Mr Gow took the decision that it would be best to send the most violent beasts to the abattoir.

Were there other solutions?

I was reminded of a story published in LWD some years ago on the merits of Tai Chi in calming cows.

 

https://leaderswedeserve.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/tai-chi-happy-cows.jpg

 

Or maybe a cow whisperer could have been called in?

Another LWD theme has been horse-whispering and the principles of trust-based leadership. Perhaps these might have suggested another way of dealing with Farmer Gow’s troublesome cows


Business consultancy appoints classical ballet dancer

August 15, 2008

A former ballet dancer has been appointed to apply his leadership skills to help individuals and teams survive and thrive in corporate environments. Lee Fisher joins the ranks of horse whisperers, therapists, actors, poets, magicians, entrepreneurs, explorers, firewalkers and voice coaches who have appeared in support of leadership development courses

Our eagle-eyed technology correspondent sent us the story of Lee Fisher, the latest addition to the ranks of personal development consultants. No, I don’t know whether there is a technology link, or whether he just likes ballet.

According to the publicity release, Lee has joined Lane4 which was co-founded by Olympic gold medalist Adrian Moorhouse, and Sport Psychologist Graham Jones. Lee is artistic director of Freefall Dance Company, a company for young dancers with severe learning disabilities.

Lee trained at the Royal Ballet School and enjoyed 17 years as a soloist with the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Since retiring from full time performing in 2005, Lee has made guest appearances in London, Shanghai, Birmingham and Oxford.

He was the Dance Fellow 2005/06 on the Core Leadership Programme – an initiative that identifies and develops leaders in the cultural sector. The programme included leadership training, mentoring and placements at the Eden Project and BBC2.

Ruth Cavender, head of human resources at Lane4 commented: “We’re always on the look out for talented individuals. We’re not necessarily looking for qualified trainers … we’re seeking candidates from diverse backgrounds who don’t necessarily [have formal qualifications but] have a ‘degree in excellence.’ From our experience, candidates from the worlds of psychology, organisational development, performance and elite sport make great [Lane4] performance consultants.”

Ballet and rugby training

The story took me back many years to a failing rugby team in Wales. Shock tactics were called for. After one defeat too many for the exasperated coach, players turned up for evening training, to find they were to be taken through their paces by a frail-looking waif who turned out to be borrowed from a school of ballet down by Cardiff.

The puzzled and grizzled forwards were told that their line-out leaps work was in need of improvement. They would, after the right training, leap like salmon. Their new coach explained that they would first have to learn some new exercises he was going to show them.

An hour later they dragged their sorry limbs off the pitch. Ballet training did have something to teach the local rugby heroes. It taught them they were not as fit as they thought they were.

I’d like to say the team went on to win the Welsh league, and that it was all down to ballet training. But they didn’t. Even in the interests of a good story, I must confess that the training never went much further than a short sharp shock, and a news story in the Western Mail, that weekend.

Leadership Development and Ballet

Why not? As I mulled over this news item I recalled the more recent story of Tai Chi and ‘cow whispering’ as the secret weapon for a rugby team. After which, the application of ballet principles for leadership development did not seem quite so bizarre.

I started listing other leadership development approaches I have come across. Sporting celeberities are taken for granted as possible leadership role models. So are military heroes. But what about horse whisperers, actors, fire-walkers, poets, magicians, entrepreneurs, explorers, and now ballet dancers?

Which says a lot for the belief in the leadership development fraternity in the transfer of learning from one field to another. Or maybe I should say, from one stage to another.

Acknowledgements

To Jeff Butler, Editor R&D Management, for sending in the story, which can also be traced to a personnel review item.

To San Francisco Sentinel for the Ballet image


Tai Chi, Team Leadership and Contented Cows

April 15, 2008

A Metro News article tells of a new angle on motivational methods.

Rob Taverner performs the ancient martial art in front of his 100 cows every morning to get them in the right moo-d to produce lots of milk.

The 44-year-old organic farmer visits the animals at 9am each day to run through his ten-minute routine of slow movements and breathing techniques – dressed in his distinctive overalls and wellies. He said: ‘Tai chi is all about leaving your problems behind and getting into a better zone and my mood definitely transfers to the cows’.

Crazy or What?

This blog has not been afraid to espouse the unusual. In the past we have looked at Horse Whispering, Mandrill management …

But Tai Chi for improved productivity of a herd of cows? What possible justification can there be for taking this starting point for insights into leadership?

Pause a moment

Many ideas start out as being mocked, and then dismissed as obvious. I assume this is item is likely to fall more in the former than the latter category.

Mr Taverner attracted quite a lot of publicity nationally for his tale of Tai Chi. It had the sort of quirkiness that appeals to Brits. The organic farmer also handled the media rather well. In a radio interview he added a further twist to the tale.

The cows were not just happy but their contentment had been accompanied by a measurable increase in milk production. Did all this leave himself open to ridicule? Well yes, a bit, but not enough to bother a diligent student of Tai Chi. And he had an added twist to the story.

Tai Chi and Team Leadership

He had gone down to his local rugby club over the weekend [April 12-13, 2008]. Seems the under-fourteen squad greeted him with their own humorous (as in Rugby club humourous) version of a Tai Chi warm up.

See? I said there was a connection with team leadership. According to the farmer the team went on to win its competition.

Make your own mind up

A momentary bit of eye candy? Or should we be looking more closely at the rationale for applying Tai Chi as part of a sporting leader’s armoury of techniques which help team members generate fierce resolve?

Acknowledgement

To Jonathan Guiliano for introducing me to Bob Sutton’s entertaining and well-informed blog