meta THE LEADERSHIP SHORT LIST: WHAT is it? Who’s On it NOW? Do we NEED It? :: The Bullvine - The Dairy Information You Want To Know When You Need It


We all recognize leaders when they are at the head of the line … but are we astute enough to pick them out when they are among the pack. Who is on your leadership short list?

What is the Short List?

Every group, industry or sport has a short list of people who stand above the rest. Who do you instantly think of when you hear the words baseball, money or politics?  Does it work when you think of dairy industry leaders?

Imagine that you’re sitting around the table discussing an upcoming sale or show booth design. “Maybe we can get Bonnie Mohr to design it?” Or you need an upcoming ad campaign for your selling your heifers, cows or embryos.  “Maybe Michael Heath or Charlie Will could give us an endorsement…” or if you’re having a downsizing sale, “Wouldn’t it be great if Norm Nabholz was reading the pedigrees and Brian Craswell calling the auction?”  Do you see the trend here? The shortlist are those folks who are recognized as industry “household names.” They’re known for excelling in their field. When you think about today’s dairy industry, who would you put on the shortlist of people who have that kind of recognition in their area of expertise? Who are the people who have achieved excellence and are setting an active example for the rest of us? ALL the time?

Let’s Identify Short List Leadership Characteristics

What do stubborn and trustworthy have in common, if anything?  They are two characteristics that put exceptional people on the S.H.O.R.T list of dairy leaders. Let’s look at the top five characteristics: 1. Stubborn 2. Humble 3. One-of-a-Kind 4. Resilient 5. Trustworthy.


Leaders are selectively stubborn.  There’s a difference between stubbornly moving … and stubbornly stopped! Leaders are stubborn about maintaining a sustainable level of improvement.

Lots of us are good at something.  Fewer of us are the very best at anything.  Leaders stubbornly work to continually improve the level that they perform at. For the rest of us, I think it’s a crime that we all stop short.  We never test how good we could have been. We GO BUST before we allow ourselves Reach BEST.  Getting to the shortlist is like your favorite cows in the milk line … it takes persistence.  Not only do they have the genetics but they have the will.  Not only do they have the potential but they show up and produce.

Only the persistent manage to achieve and maintain leadership.  It’s a daily job that requires working in the right-place-in-the right way day after day for a very long time. It takes the stubborn will to meet and outlast the challenges — not for just one year — but for a decade or three. Those who are running from confrontation or fearfully seeking the widespread consensus will forever find themselves detouring around progress. Valued leaders accept the harder road and stubbornly work through problems to the solutions.


We don’t often associate leadership with humility. Often those who tell us they are leading … are merely emphasizing the size of their egos, not the distance they can take us toward the future.  Of course, recognized leaders are especially good at something but they are also exceptionally good at seeing what is great in those around them.  They aren’t threatened by others strengths … Nor do they seek to steal other’s work and claim it as their own.  True leadership recognizes everybody’s short list of strengths.  Whether it’s bringing out the best in cows, facilities, processes, employees or organizations, real leaders do so by example and work to raise everyone up to a better standard.  They lead by example and have very little concern for the title or badge.  Too often we experience the complete lack of results produced by those who want the badge before they’ve done the work.  Instead of seeking the number one solution, they are only interested in themselves being #1.


Being “the same as everyone else” is NOT a short list trait. Take the daily very good and lift it to remarkable. They stand up, and they stand out.  They encourage others not to be the same as everyone else… or even anyone else.  Be better.   Dr. Seuss is right. “Why fit in, will fall when you were born to stand out?” You can’t walk where the crowd is and make the short list.  Regardless of how you measure ‘best’, it is almost never present in the thing that is the most popular.

One of the things wrong with today’s marketplace is that there is far too much rehashing of old ideas spun as new.  Great leaders aren’t copycats.  They abhor me too!  Leaders have no patience for the status quo.  They focus their efforts on shattering the status quo.  Game changers refuse to allow their organization to adopt conventional methods and bureaucracy.  They challenge norms, break conventions.  The encourage diversity of thought.


They don’t cry.  They create.  Leaders don’t complain when times are tough.  They create, improve on and innovate in order for things to get better. While they believe in and develop best practices, they don’t stop there.  They move on to next practices. Have you ever wondered how some people come up with the proverbial big idea? To put it simply, “They never settle for the way things are today!” They are not stopped by those who say, “We don’t do it that way” or “it might not work.” They aren’t just dreamers; they are doers.  Successful leaders are persistent.  They are never stopped by the setbacks.  They realize that potential is of little value if said potential fails to be realized.


You can get through anything if there is trust.  However, once that is broken, it’s hard to move forward.  Leaders have to communicate.  They don’t have to be perfect.  They don’t have to have all the answers.  But they have to inspire trust in the fact that they are doing the best they can and will always tell the truth.  That means knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the character to do the right thing. Some so-called leaders who are charged with confronting problems only grow them because of their lack of accountability and questionable motives.   Sometimes real leadership means changing direction.  People follow a leader because of trust.  That’s the real meaning of charisma.


If you hang around long enough, you get the thrill of experiencing the game-changing moments in the dairy industry. Those are the ah-ha moments when the industry takes a leap forward – and moves from ordinary to exceptional. Of course, hindsight is 20/20.

In the past, we had individuals!  We have them today, but we may be too timid to recognize them.  The industry is at a crossroads.  Leaping ahead because of science.  Held back because of economics.  World issues and local issues are each having impact on the way dairying is done. Today we need groups:

  • Scientists and researchers continually breaking new ground
  • Breeders acting outside the box
  • Boards of Directors investing in innovation

Yes, we need leadership.  We know we need it.  Do we know where to find it?


Being a leader isn’t easy.  It’s hard.  Until success is realized, many will label and malign you.  Some people, despite their potential for leadership, are so afraid of ending up on this short sh*t list that they will do anything to avoid landing there.  This ultimately undermines any chance to do something good for the industry, themselves or their dairy. If you are wondering where today’s potential is …. Who can you name that is being labeled “black sheep” “troublemaker” or “pot stirrer”?  Now. Name a leader you admire and respect.  Were they appreciated in their own time? When they started out? If not, why not?


Now we have five punchy adjectives that at first glance might suggest that leadership characteristics overlap. While the characteristics are shared, the areas of excellence are varied.  It takes a broad range of talents to excel in dairying, and there is a need for excellence in every one of them. We need leaders in breeding, advertising, business, sales, showing and fitting, pedigrees and any of the myriad of details that inspire our passion to improve this industry.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Leadership starts with each recognizing and fulfilling a need.  Everyone in dairying needs to stand up for what will take us forward.  We can’t rest on what got us here.  Now we have to move in a dynamic growing direction.  Look for the leader that’s needed.  True leadership is a short list. Don’t be surprised if you find them – or yourself — standing alone. That’s where all the leaders are!!



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