One of my earliest childhood memories growing up on our dairy farm was that of Bessy – one of my father’s Jersey cows. She was so calm, letting me pet her and brush her – even ride her! But more importantly, Bessy was the undisputed Queen of the Herd.
I spent countless hours around and on Bessy – what else do you do when you grow up on a ranch and have to pick your playmates from an assortment of farm animals? We were buds. At feeding time, the tractor would pull up to the feeding trough, and our ranch hand would drop hay in for the entire herd. All the young heifers and older cows would come running, crowd around the hay and start eating furiously.
Bessy was, without question, the most powerful cow in our herd but she achieved that rank and position quietly – without being loud or aggressive.
Bessy would not run to the hay. She sauntered. Why rush, she seemed to say? She was calm, cool and confident – almost Presidential in a bovine sort of way. As she drew near the hay, however, the other cows would scatter – making way for Queen Bessy. If they lingered a bit too long, Bessy would drop her head and neck, give a low, throaty “Moo”, and the girls would obediently back off. If they did not show the respect she required, she’d give a subtle, but well-placed bump of her substantial shoulder and sent one or two of them flying. Then Bessy ate her fill.
I did not realize until recently the incredible lessons I learned from Bessy about power and influence! Bessy was, without question, the most powerful cow in our herd but she achieved that rank and position quietly – without being loud or aggressive. She did not rattle her horns, get in anyone’s face or engage in daily fights with her pasture-mates. She did not use physical brutality to intimidate. Instead, she used quiet confidence, willingness to set and enforce rules and clever control. And every time I think back to Bessy and her ways, I realize something new about her. Now I know why I could ride Bessy and not the other cows. Bessy was too confident to be skittish! She was, as they say in the South, “as cool as the otha’ side o’ the pilla’”.
What a role model! I use Bessy’s story today, as I teach young professionals the secrets of quiet power and control, and she is always in my thoughts.
Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.