The Leader and the Cowboy

[May 1, 2019] I’ve always enjoyed working with people who grew up and worked on a farm or ranch where they learned the value of hard work. They learned all about nature and spent long periods outside in the harsh elements, are self-educated and worked with their hands. This is the leader and the cowboy.

Contrast these men (and yes, women too) with their urban, fashionable counterparts that take a formal education for granted, prefer recreation activities to work, and are sensitive about their perceived moral superiority. The latter folk, who are the big-city peers to the cowboy, spend their lives indoors, manipulating a keyboard at the computer, and see the world through a lens of trendy clothes, movies, social media, and television.

The leader and the cowboy is often self-made, unentitled, hands on, neighborly, and less precious than their urbanized equivalents. In the U.S. Army, I found that those who grew up in the rural parts of the country made better soldiers. They adapted to the stresses and structured environment of the military quicker and more smoothly. They work better with teams and are more honest and reliable.

The leader and the cowboy was more likely to advance in the enlisted ranks and be the go-to soldier on the battlefield who could get the mission done without a lot of guidance or unnecessary fanfare. If you see a Silver Star or Medal of Honor awarded for bravery, its likely to be a cowboy. If you see soldiers getting things done to help their unit, its also the cowboy.

They don’t wait to be told what to do. Somehow, they know what needs to be done and are willing – actually, happy to be the first – to do it. They score highest on the military’s physical fitness tests and are more likely to be Navy SEAL Team members, Army Rangers, or Marine combat soldiers. Their city-peers are more likely to be in administration and work in an air-conditioned building.

My life-long friends are the leaders and the cowboys. That is my bias and I’m happy to know those men and women who are at the “tip of the spear” in our military. They’ll do any job and don’t consider themselves intellectually beneath any task that needs doing. When the going gets tough, they’ll be there beside us and without hesitation.

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.

21 thoughts on “The Leader and the Cowboy

  1. Yusaf from Texas

    Gen. Satterfield, another great article to start my day off reading. My friends told me to say “howdy” to you and you would know what it means.

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      Thank you Yusaf for passing this along to us and yes, this is an article that makes practical sense.

  2. Bryan Lee

    This is the kind of thing we don’t see coming from our academics who like to study people but ignore the obvious while they spend out tax money (in grants) on stupid stuff.

    1. lydia truman

      Bryan, you id’ed one of my personal pet peeves. Academics waste so much money that anywhere else it would be outlawed as a criminal holdup. He He. Glad you are on this topic. Thanks.

      1. Tracey Brockman

        Same here. THANKS for bringing this up for discussion.

      1. José Luis Rodriguez

        Unfortunately, grant dollars are susceptible to fraud, waste, and abuse.

      2. Gil Johnson

        Most government agencies have an Office of Inspector General (OIG) that is responsible for investigating allegations of fraud, waste, and abuse, and can be located at: http://WWW.IGNET.GOV

  3. Jonathan B.

    I work in the medical field and find that the people who make the best health care workers (as a generically wide career) are generally from rural areas and grew up with religion, large families, and learned about hard work early in life.

    1. Big Al

      I think you will find this sort of common bond to be across all populations. City folk tend to be very self-centered and more concerned about their looks (how they dress, makeup, hairstyle, etc.) than the average person. And I’m a big guy, so I should know.

      1. Greg Heyman

        You are just too funny, Big Al. Thanks for making my day.

  4. Max Foster

    I was reading my NRA American Rifleman magazine yesterday. An article, “In the company of soldiers” was one that aligns with what you have to say here, Gen. Satterfield. Recommend folks join the NRA and get this magazine. It helps overcome the propaganda you hear and see on the television and in the communist CNN, NYT places.

    1. AutisticTechie

      I’m already a member. Like so many Americans like me, I stand for ALL the Constitutional amendments and don’t pick and chose.

    1. Eric Coda

      My sentiments exactly. This is one of the better blog posts here that I’ve read. It is spot-on regarding how our upbringing effects us later in life.

    2. Army Captain

      Good! I was thinking the same thing.

      1. JT Patterson

        Glad to see you’re on the discussion board this morning. Thanks for your input daily.

    3. Nick Lighthouse

      We always enjoy these blog posts. Reading the comments section is usually very entertaining.

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