You know, a lot of really unkind things have been said about goats over the centuries.
People tend to think they’re sneaky, stinky, overly amorous, and indiscriminate in their eating habits.
And yet, homesteaders who actually own goats are usually completely head over heels in love with their sweet, friendly dispositions, their adorable antics, and their delicious milk and cheese.
Maybe we’re all just the type that fall for bad boys, but I think goats have just gotten a bad rap.
Okay, yes, the males can be a little stinky and a little over the top when it comes to wooing the ladies, but doesn’t that pretty much apply to all males of every species? (Sorry, couldn’t resist!) As far as being sneaky or troublesome, that’s really just a sign of their intelligence—there’s a lot more going on behind those deep brown eyes than you’d expect. And that image of a goat eating tin cans? Nothing more than an old wives’ tale.
In fact, if you ask a homesteader, I’ll bet they’ll tell you that they’ve actually learned a lot from their goats. I know I have.
For example, did you know that goats have a matriarchal society?
That’s right. For all the bluster and bravado of the bucks, when it comes down to it, each herd is actually led by a “herd queen,” a doe who has proven her strength and leadership skills to the other goats, and assumed this position of authority.
How has she proven that she possesses these traits? Why, by head-butting the other members of her herd, of course. Goats do have horns for a reason, you know.
But while I wouldn’t recommend head-butting your way to the top at your workplace, there are some leadership lessons to be learned from these herd queens. They just take a bit of translation, is all.
1. Don’t be shy about sharing your strengths. The first lesson to be learned from a herd queen is directly related to all that head-butting. While it can look violent to an uninformed observer, there’s actually a lot more ritual than real anger behind those head-to-head crashes.
To a doe, head-butting another herd member is her way of showing them what she’s capable of. She’s showcasing her strength, her confidence, and her ability to take charge. Does who refrain from showing off their abilities will never become herd queens, even though they might have just as many great qualities. If they won’t head-butt to prove it, they will never advance.
The same can be said for women in the workplace. Like most does in a herd, we tend to hang back and refrain from blowing our own horn. We hope to gain recognition for our work on its own merits, without having to “brag” about it. But most of the time, that approach just doesn’t work.
Now, attacking your boss physically is probably not the best way to let him or her know about your accomplishments, but regular reminders of the great work you do can help to keep your skills in the forefront of his or her mind, the next time you’re up for a promotion.
2. Don’t hesitate to accept challenges. Again with the head-butting? Yep. Here’s the thing. Does challenge each other to a little head-butting session by rearing up on their hind legs and twisting their head to the side. Often this is done in play, but sometimes, it’s serious business. A goat who doesn’t accept the challenge when it’s serious will often get head-butted anyway—and not on the horns, where bones can absorb the impact, but on the side or from behind. A doe who turns tail and runs is not herd queen material.
Isn’t that the way challenges affect us in the workplace, as well? If we face them head-on, and tackle them with all our might, we stand a good chance of coming out successful on the other side. But running from them can do us more harm than good—both professionally and personally. By accepting work-related challenges that come our way, we have the chance to grow and develop new skills, and prove our abilities in a new arena, as well.
3. Don’t forget that leadership means service. As much as I’m sure my own little homestead herd queen loves the perks of her position—she makes sure that the biggest portions of food go to her, as well as the sunniest lounging spots in the yard—she spends most of her day looking out for the other members of her herd. If any animal she deems unsafe gets too close to the herd, they’d better watch out, because she is instantly there to head-butt them away. They usually don’t need more than one such notice that they’re unwanted.
In the same way, any effective leader knows that their job is really all about service. For all the perks and power of the position, it’s really a matter of doing what’s best for the company and its people, to lead them into growth and success.
So in spite of the fact that goats are often perceived in a negative light, they actually demonstrate a surprising amount of wisdom in their little herds. I think any homesteader would agree that a great part of the fun and enjoyment of homesteading lies in the incredible amount that you learn every day from nature.