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Bulls and Boardrooms: Leadership Lessons from a Rodeo

I've recently moved to the breathtaking, untamed landscapes of Wyoming, and let me tell you—the local rodeo scene is one jaw-dropping adrenaline-pumping spectacle. Picture this: riders gripping onto 2,000-pound bulls, mastering a perfect blend of focus, grit, and sheer guts for what feels like the longest 8 seconds of their lives. It's a heart-stopping event that got me thinking: Isn't this the essence of leadership distilled into a single, electrifying moment?

Let's face it, leading a team isn't even predictable, let alone a smooth ride. There are times when, despite your best-laid plans, you find yourself in a completely unexpected situation — kind of like our friend, the bull rider, upside-down and likely praying for a soft landing.

Rodeo and leadership—seems like an unlikely duo, right? But dig a little deeper, and you'll find they're cut from the same cloth. Both are filled with ups, downs, twists, and turns that'll keep you on the edge of your saddle.

The Bull Is Unpredictable: In a rodeo, your ride is as unpredictable as it gets, and guess what? So are the challenges of leadership. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on things, the market changes, new regulations kick in, or a global pandemic hits. The bull sets the pace, and you have to adapt in real-time.

Grip and Team Support: A firm grip is essential to keep from being thrown off. But in the rodeo of leadership, this grip is your team. The better your rapport, trust, and communication, the better your grip on managing uncertainties.

Rapid Movements: Bulls jump, kick, and spin without warning. Similarly, leadership is filled with rapid developments that can disrupt your workflow. Whether it’s a sudden shift in project priorities or an unplanned merger, you need to be agile and flexible to maneuver effectively.

The 8-Second Rule: In bull riding, riders aim to stay on for at least 8 seconds. In leadership, it’s about enduring the highs and lows long enough to gain a meaningful experience, even if it's a brief moment of insight.

When You Fall, Get Up: In rodeos, falling off is par for the course. In leadership, failure isn’t a dead-end; it’s an arena for growth. The key is to get back up, dust off, and ride again with the lessons you've learned.

Are you holding on for dear life, or are you strategically gripping the reins to steer your leadership journey?

Remember, it’s not about avoiding the highs and lows—it’s about mastering the art of maneuvering through them. So saddle up, leaders! The rodeo of leadership is a thrilling ride if you have the guts to stay on.

Dr. Merrylue Martin is President and CEO of the Job Joy Group and best-selling author of the Big Quit Survival Guide. To learn more, visit and connect on LinkedIn.


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