Reflections on “Think like a farmer”

Reflections on "Think like a farmer" |

This visual on “Think like a farmer” has been going around on LinkedIn for a while. It’s good advice and as with many others, I subscribe to it. But it begs me the question, why can’t we do it? Despite the many teachings of facilitative leadership like this, why do we (or whoever we’re trying to influence to change) so easily continue the command and control style of leadership?

What’s your theory on why inspiring messages like this are always around, but never seem to be acted on?

For example, when staring at this slide in a training session it feels good and it makes a lot of sense. But back in office when that same manager looks at their people, I sympathise if they can’t see them as crop, or farm animals to raise. I mean, can you see your people as corn or chicken? That’s actually not nice, sounds dehumanizing, right? Or see them as children or students to nurture and grow? That comes with a feeling of condescendence, would you agree?

As you know I use “mental models” in my coaching work. I would consider this “think like a farmer” as one such mental model – an interpretation of facilitative leadership or servant leadership in layman’s terms. It’s a good one, a useful one.

A useful one, if it can be used.

This is the part where I feel that any introduction of a mental model is best accompanied by a conversation. “Do you like it? If so, how’d you like to use it?” And then another conversation following up on, “How’d it go?”

Only at this point of asking “how’d it go?” will we be able to find out what worked, what didn’t work and what can be improved.

In this example, maybe that feeling of condescension was a blocker. And then if so, maybe a humurous discussion on euphemisms and why there’s no point on taking them literally, could remove the blocker and let the person act on the essence of the mental model.

I caution myself that mental models are not the solution. They are simply tools to help solve problems and challenges. They are dialogue helpers. They are sources of conversations.



I wrote this post originally on LinkedIn as a Sunday reflection. It went a bit viral so sharing it here as well.

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