Leadership and Raking Leaves

By | December 19, 2020

[December 19, 2020]  One of my early attempts at earning money also involved, unintentionally, filling the role of team leader.  Two of my friends and I decided to “make some quarters” by raking up our neighbors’ leaves.  I look back to that time, see my ignorance, and chuckle.  But there were lessons to learn, and I did indeed learn them, all the hard way.

In the early 1960s, the American economy was not doing as well as one might believe.  Things were tough, jobs were plentiful but paid almost nothing.  For a kid, forget it.  You had to compete with adults looking for work, and, of course, employers were not going to pay a kid when a man with a wife was the alternate choice.

This meant we had to put our heads together and come up with a plan.  One Autumn in 1965, Randy, Wilson, and I came up with a new strategy.  We would rake leaves into a nearby ditch and ask for local folks to pay us a quarter.  It was up to the homeowner to burn the leaves (our dads told us not to play with matches).

While our strategy did work most of the time.  Here are a few things we all learned:

  1. Charging a quarter was a good arrangement for the homeowner but didn’t earn us too much. We did, however, learn that hard work paid.
  2. There was no such thing as a tip of money, but we could drink outside from the water hose. Sometimes you’ve got to ask. If they refuse, thank them anyway.
  3. Say hello to everyone on the street you meet. Be polite and respectful.  Tell them you are looking for a job raking leaves.  This helps get the word out.
  4. We learned quickly which people would agree versus those who would not. “Rich” people usually turned us down.
  5. Bring your own rake and wear gloves. Getting scratched was part of the job.1
  6. Save your money. Don’t use it to buy candy or other trinkets.  Don’t lend your money.
  7. Sing while you work and sing loudly. We sang, “I wish I was in Dixie.”  We didn’t know all the words, and that was okay.  The work itself became fun.
  8. Don’t horse around after all the leaves are raked into the ditch. Tell the homeowner, get paid, ask for a drink of water, thank them, and then go to the next house.

An interesting side note of working that Autumn.  There were often girls our age nearby.  We would say “hi” and wonder why we were so attracted to them.  Our dads had told us to be extra polite to them, which we were.  Later, those same girls were the ones we would date, and they had remembered us.  At school dances, they always said yes to our request to dance.

While the Summer and Autumn of 1965 was a good time for us and for learning about adulthood, we also began to notice the war in Vietnam for the first time.  We were confused about war.  Local WWII and Korea War veterans would speak to us, and this is where we began to learn about the idea of honor, bravery, and camaraderie.


  1. https://www.theleadermaker.com/finding-coke-bottles-and-lessons-in-leadership/
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

18 thoughts on “Leadership and Raking Leaves

  1. Marg Stillwell

    I too am reminded of my childhood as I had many “jobs” growing up. Those jobs gave me confidence, a bit of real-world experience, and a chance to accept responsibility, tell the truth, and practice being a good person. There is no substitute for experience.

  2. Jonathan B.

    Wow, you sure learned a lot, Gen. Satterfield as a kid. You were one of the lucky ones.

  3. Mr. T.J. Asper

    Gen. S., you list of 8 leadership lessons (or just things you learned) is a pretty good list. If you really did take these to heart, you were certainly developing leadership qualities pretty darn fast for a kid that hasn’t gotten into High School yet. Well done.

    1. Tom Bushmaster

      Mr. TJ. Yes, I agree that Gen. Satterfield developed leadership qualities early. For those who are willing to go back and search on “leadership and” in his Search Box feature, you will find plenty more examples. Plus you get to see that he is developing a desire for women early on and yet he has not yet figured out why.

  4. Emma Archambeau

    “The Summer of 1965” = what a mixed up time in our history. And, to think that Gen. Satterfield was growing up in the middle of it.

  5. Max Foster

    Gen. Satterfield, I have enjoyed, enormously, your series on “leadership and …” (gives a particular “job” you had as a boy or young man). Certainly gives a bit of insight into why you made it to the rank of General in the US Army. I see many traits and things you figured out then that carried you thru life.

    1. Rowen Tabernackle

      Max, I noticed the same thing. But I also note that Gen. Satterfield admits to being superbly ignorant of many ideas and situations as well. 👍

    2. Wendy Holmes

      —- and this is why I read to many articles of Gen. Satterfield’s leadership blog. Well done, sir. Thank you!

      1. Eric Coda

        Good point Wendy and Max/Rowen. Leadership traits begin to develop when we are very young. Those who are around children long enough begin to “see” leadership developing more in some than others. You will also see that girls develop physically and mentally faster than boys yet boys develop leadership traits faster. Why? I leave that to smarter people than me.

        1. JT Patterson

          Excellent observation, ERic. I never would have thought of that.

    3. Dennis Mathes

      Good comments folks. Thanks. Eric has a special observation that makes a lot of sense altho I’ve never read anything that supports it, just observation.

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