Thursday, June 04, 2009


I am an American History Lover (yes with capitals letters), I even teach American history “USA History by Angelo’s way” I do by impersonating normal, daily, regular and common people from our history. I can be Willie the Bullwhacker the guy driven the oxen in the Santa Fe Trail, I can be Indian Jim (James Garfield Brown) the Champion bricklayer and builder of the Old “Highway” from Kansas City to Olathe. These guys will never be part of a history book, no streets or parks will be named after them, they are like us daily warrior bringing the best of us to impact and make our country stronger and wiser, We are our children’s heroes, our neighbors role model and even our wife’s Knight is a shiny armor. (My is getting kind a rusty)

Willie does not talk only about the painful journeys of the trails; he also talks about leadership and personal development. Please enjoy a talk and an encounter with Willie

Willie the Bullwhacker:
Leadership Lessons from the Trail

Everyone knows how important the opening of the free exploration to the West was to
people. The opening of new routes and the discovery of new unsettled territories was
amazing. America was growing to the west, to the “Big Deserts.” Trails like the Oregon,
Santa Fe, Leavenworth or military trails became highways for immigrants. Some 350,000 used the Oregon Trail alone for a 2,000-mile trip. The “great early migration” is the best example of goal-setting, accountability, commitment, and teamwork. It was an experience where training, preparation, achievement, and leadership were daily duties. What can we learn about leadership from prairie schooners, from the oxen and mules, or from a bullwhacker, the rudest man on the trail?

The Bullwhacker was the wiser man, the right hand of the Wagon Master (CEO) he will pick only the best oxen to do the job each with specific “responsibilities”. The Wheelers were the one closer to the wheel (front line worker). The Swingers got their due to the way they will move and swing their heavy bodies as helping the wheeler to pull the load of the wagon. The Pointers will be kind in the middle of the “labor force” sharing the job with the wheelers and swinger, and the leaders where no the stronger but the best training oxen and their position was in front of the pack, and of course Willie the master mind of the journey.

This is what a learned from Willie: (a Servant Leader)

The SERVER Leader

See and focus on the future. (Goal-setting)
Engage everyone in the mission. (Inspire,
motivate and lead)
Re-engineer your projects. (Look for change
and improvement)
Value and respect your team player. (Share
and delegate)
Energize people one more time.
(Commitment and accountability)
Responsibility, the first and last goal for a
leader (Setting examples and passing the torch) an extra R: respect people of all levels
“TRUE leadership has nothing to do with
one’s level in the organization.”
How Can I use the oxen experience in today’s daily business journey? Here it goes

Fit, Do Not Fix

Wheelers: Frontline workers
Swinger: Cross-trained workers
Pointers: Supervisor and supporters
Leaders: Opening the path for the pack
Willie: The “real” leader


Let’s change the way we hire people. From now on, we will select people of character
and we will develop their skills and teach them the company’s culture. Hire them by
their behavior, character, and attitude. “Great leaders” don’t become leaders in a
moment (or in a month or a year). They become great leaders one day at a time,
throughout their lifetimes. In other words, fit your people into your company’s needs.
Understand that values are the beliefs that drive our behavior, passion, and love. They
drive our attitude and commitment, and our character. Let the candidate know you very
well. They need to be sure about you and your company.


Cross-training is important. Employees need to understand what everyone does and value
the support that they provide to the “chain of success.” It may sometimes be difficult to
determine where the enterprise is heading, but heading somewhere is a MUST. Devote
your time to seeing the big picture, also. Sometimes heads up; sometimes heads down.


Never take your eyes away from the future. You must have the right people in the right
roles fully engaged under the let’s-see-the-future doctrine. Everything that you as a
leader accomplish hinges on the people you have around you. The pointers will help to
make your job easier by “taking time today to ensure that there is a tomorrow.” Here is
where you will find that if you do not select the right people for the right job, you have
made a SERIOUS leadership mistake. And never underestimate the time, energy and
money necessary to fix it. Selection is too expensive. We cannot afford
it. The worst thing is that MORALE will suffer. The cost of declining performance
and missed business opportunities, the need to hire somebody again for the same
position, and selecting trainers and new workers will impact and hurt the morale of
your team.


My former boss used to tell me that “with every pair of hands you hire, you get a free
brain. Use them! Collect them!” It was easy for me to complete the sentence with: the
brain is connected to the heart. These guys will help you so that you don’t waste human
potential. Leaders are the role models. They will generate all levels of engagement. They have clear goals and understand you. They are raving fans of your company’s culture.


This guy is flexible with his people, but he is strong with his principles and values.
He develops opportunities for his people. He invests a lot of time in the development of
his team. He knows that this is the only way to create expectations for learning and growing. Educational resources are his everyday gift to his people.

He does not care about his people’s ID, he cares about his workers’ IDP (Individual Development Programs). He does not care about people’s DL, he cares about his team members’ CDL (Complete Direct Leadership). He does all this because he understands that strengths will FIT; weaknesses we have to FIX. He concentrates only on the positive
side of team members, and does not expend too much time talking about weaknesses. He
makes everyone on his team understand that training is not a disciplinary or corrective
action, it is a retention tool!

When was the last time you pick your oxen correctly?

Angelo H. Mino

AKA Willie the Bullwhacker