Pushing Cattle

Mr. Dan Boyd, a cowboy preacher from Kansas and Facebook friend, reminded me of a lesson I learned several years ago. His profound statement was; “It’s easier to lead cattle, and most people, than push them. Jesus leads, while Satan pushes.” His example, like the lesson I learned earlier, came from learning to herd cattle. It’s much easier leading them gently than pushing them from behind. While I applied this principle in my professional life for many years, I’m always amazed at how many leadership lessons from those decades transfer to the ranch.

Contrary to what many believe, cattle can learn good manners and be handled and worked safely. Much like employees, the most effective manner is through gentle leading and not demanding pressure. With cattle, I learned the more excited I get, the more uncomfortable they become. The more calm and purposeful I am, the easier they are to work with. Example: If I want to move a cow somewhere, I can either call them or flank them (lead from alongside them). Doing so results in less time and energy than trying to single one out, or pressure them to do something they don’t wish to do.

Are you seeing where I’m going here? I hope I’m leading you to understand that we humans react much the same way. Folks always respond more favorably to being asked to do something rather than being forced to do something. Ask me to help and I’ll usually respond with kindness. Bark orders at me and I’m apt to tell you what you can do with your order. Sometimes, be it people or unruly cows, you must meet aggression with equal aggression. Then again, I’ve stood my ground and been run over a few times too. I never claimed God made me the smartest fella on the block.

When I first started working with cows, I would watch people yell, wave, and run-around while the animals became disoriented, nervous, and dangerous. This left me fearful of being in an enclosed area with these large animals. Then I remember watching shepherds and exhibitors at county fairs during the livestock judging. With them, you saw a calm demeanor and intentional actions. Their animals, accustomed to being handled in that way, reacted very differently. I took the latter approach with my herd. It increased everyone’s safety, all-around comfort, and cooperation.

It’s easier to lead than push. Share on X

I can’t share this message with you without mentioning how our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, taught us this principle of living. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29, NKJV). As He spoke these words, He invited us to yoke ourselves to Him; allowing Him to come alongside, guiding and teaching us how to live a Christian life.

While our Savior is certainly higher than us—and deserving of our praise and adoration—He is humble enough to come down to our level and show us the way. When I worked, I called it servant leadership. I remember telling every team member I hired, “I will never ask you to do something I’m not willing to do myself.” There were lots of nights and weekends spent, more than many of them, living up to that statement. I still apply that leadership style today around the Cross-Dubya. To be honest, the livestock respond better to it than some of my team members through the years.

I wonder what the results in our families and churches would be if we all adopted this example of servant leadership. What if when a new Christian comes to Christ through faith, we yoked ourselves to them so we could disciple them from an equal position; rather than authority? Could we do the same with our spouses and children? Can we meet our employees, students, or others at their level?

In my life, the lessons I learned best were the ones my adopted dad taught in his calm, patient manner. Growing me to become an auto mechanic sometimes required every bit of patience he could muster. It required the same in teaching me to be a son, man, husband, and leader. I pray there is someone who can come alongside you and lead you through this maze called human life; helping you to realize the plan God has for your life.

God’s blessings,



Please join me each Thursday evening at 9:30 Eastern as host Coach Mark Prasek and I take a trip Around the Cross-Dubya on PJNET TV. We discuss this week’s blog post, offer insight about the lessons learned, and enjoy the fellowship of friends in the live chat room.


38 thoughts on “Pushing Cattle”

  1. JD, a few weeks ago I posted a video that showcased a lady from Ireland singing her cattle to come. Many livestock farmers have their own system of calling the cows to the barn or the chickens to the roost. My wife shakes a bag of bread and all her chickens come. Pushing in the Appalachian Mountains will wear a person out.

    John 10:27 NKJV
    My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

    1. Amen Mr. Ben. I remember that sir. I call mine speaking Italian or giving them my own special call (they come running to it, but almost always stop when they get near). There’s nothing better than when they come up to you and place their head in your hands; wanting to be near you. What a blessing!

  2. Much more effective to lead gently and firmly than to poke, prod and demand, J. D. We humans aren’t so different from cattle in how we respond to leadership, it seems. I’ll remember to yoke myself to Jesus and let Him guide my way.
    Great analogy!

  3. Diane Virginia Cunio

    Great thoughts Mr. JD. Servant leadership is the way to go, and our Savior demonstrated this method Himself. Inspiring!!! Thank you.

  4. Wonderful thoughts, brother J.D. I appreciate your calm approach – your gentleness and kindness – as you lead us closer to the Lord through your writings. May He fill your day with good things!

  5. Thank you, J.D. for this post. You are so right…I have been in the same types of situations where a leader pushed and pulled instead of leading by example. There is such a difference! As always you relate it back to the Bible so well!

  6. I certainly can say I respond much better to being asked than being forced. We are commanded to treat others as we wish to be treated. As a mom and grandmother I know it is true of dealing with children, especially toddlers!

    1. You and me both Ms. Ann. I’m hoping, with time, God will teach me to respond better than I sometimes do when those situations arise. And I agree; it seems our children know exactly which button to push to get us going don’t they? 😀

  7. I am very thankful for the mentors God has placed in my life over the years. Their leadership and patience allowed my relationship with God to grow. They “led” and didn’t “push”. Great message dear friend.

    1. Amen Ms. Melissa! It’s those special people God places in our lives, who patiently and lovingly (in their own unique way) mold us to become who God wants us to be. I too am grateful for each one He’s brought into my life.

  8. Lot’s of wisdom here, my friend. As a teacher and former college administrator, I agree 100% that leading accomplishes much more (and with better attitudes all around) than pushing. Love your application to fostering a more amiable and spiritutal home and church family when we lead lovingly, walking in step with one another. Wonderful message, JD. Thank you!

    1. Yes! Our homes and churches really should be the first place we start with servant leadership isn’t it Ms. Katherine. I’ve found though, there ae times when I am more gentle, humble, and patient with strangers than I am with family and church family. I think it’s because I try and hold them to a higher, worldly standard rather than accept them with grace for who and where they are. What a great point you make my friend. Thank you!

    1. You are so welcome Ms. Karen. The nastiest thing about Satan is that his temptations actually lead you (when you succumb to your carnal, human desires) up the edge; THEN HE PUSHES YOU OVER! What a great word picture your comments created ma’am. Perhaps that’s why it’s so important we keep holding God’s hand with each step we take. Don’t let go sweet friend!

    1. Aww… Thank you Ms. Tammy. And thank you for sharing as always ma’am. I’m always blessed by all the shares, posts, and retweets my friends share. Each one is a little token of love they place into my spiritual account.

    1. Great points Coach! I look forward to discussing these with you tonight (Thursday at 9:30 Eastern) at http://www.pjnet.tv To give you some thoughts:
      1. Yes we can. We can lead someone to go beyond where we’re at by yoking ourselves together with them and joining them in the journey. 🙂 Example: I’m not in heaven yet, but I can give you directions to get there; and I’ll join you in the journey. 😀
      2. Amen! The question becomes, how can we catch up?!
      3. Oh Lord how I’ve tried through the years. Am glad some of the things I say stick with you my friend.

      See you tonight on PJNET TV.

  9. You speak truth, sir. I’ve worked for a good many supervisors, and the principles you’ve written about today have been evident in far too few of them. I never understood how someone could think that berating their staff could produce better quality work. The servant leaders were the ones for whom we would work our hearts out.

    1. I have too Ms. Dottie. It’s always amazed me at how few folks will apply what God’s word teaches us. Perhaps I was ruined, but my first real job was working at my family’s Texaco station in town. Watching my adopted Dad’s leadership and management styles (they are much different tasks you know), I saw how I wanted to one day be. I made lots of mistakes along the way, but I keep trying to get there. With my Father’s help, I’ll be sure to make it one day. God’s blessings ma’am.

  10. So true, J.D. As a retired teacher, I got farther by not pushing students, especially when they dug in their heels. I always tried to lead by example and inspire them to follow along. We all had a peaceful learning experience that way. The same principle applies to our everyday lives as well, doesn’t it?

    1. Yes ma’am! Whether in a classroom, our living room, or the corner market; we should always be seeking to teach and lead by our example. Too often, we see folks opting the “Do as I say, not as I do” mindset; instead of having the courage to lead by example. Well said ma’am. THANK YOU! 🙂

  11. Always enjoy your powerful analogies, J.D. And this one is a favorite. No one likes to be forced, pushed, into doing something. But leading others well and respectfully with a purpose is a wonderful tool!

  12. It’s challenging to take an obvious truth and present it in a way that compels another serious look at it, but you handled that task well–good leadership, my friend. In reflecting on the scars from cattle prod burns a few others have inflicted on me, I recall telling one boss that his pressured and critical style of leadership might get my compliance with the fine print in his personal rule book in order to get by, but he’d get nothing beyond that–no creativity, no extra sacrifice, no sense of gratitude from working there–just get in, get the job done with the least effort possible, and get out. On the other hand, I’ve worked my butt off with no extra pay because I had a boss right there in the trenches with me. Thanks for those reminders, J.D. and for the challenge for us to look around for someone else to lead at the end–good job.

    1. Amen sir. So few folks, young and old, can grasp that concept; especially in our families and in the workplace. Whether your title is parent, supervisor, assistant manager, Vice President, or CEO, your job is to ensure that those who support you have everything they need to succeed in their assignment. I suspect you share the idea with me that whenever we are given a hiring opportunity, we are mindful that we should be planning to hire, train, and equip our replacement. Our job as a supervisor (of any kind) is to help the next one move the ball further toward the goal. That’s our same job as Christians; to help those coming behind us move the world a little closer to God. Thank you for sharing your sage wisdom sir. God’s blessings.

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