“Farmer Hoggett knew that little ideas that tickled and nagged and refused to go away should never be
ignored, for in them lie the seeds of destiny.”
Here is a tip the next time you find yourself reaching for yet an other business book to read.
When it comes to developing skills in managing, leadership, coaching… and being an overall better
human being… watch the movie Babe instead.
Babe is a pig who finds success doing the work of a sheep dog.
Not only that, sheep dog work is the domain of alpha sheep dogs, who herd the sheep by nipping at them
and dominating them, whereas Babe is kind and gentle.
Yet Babe ends up performing even better than the sheep dogs.
He befriends the sheep dog Fly in her moment of need and gains a friend and ally who trusts him even when
others doubt him.
Babe doesn’t remain in a silo (or, in his case, a pig pen). Even though he was told to never leave the
boundaries of the farm yard, one day he senses distress in the sheep pasture. His core value is be useful and
protect his team, rather than keep his head down, so he races off to the pasture. He is not defined by a
job description. In this act of disobedience he ends up staving off a huge loss for the farm.
He has the courage to use his own strengths; rather than yell and bite he kindly asks the sheep to do what needs to be done. In business speak, he sees KPIs as a result, not as something to manage to.
Furthermore, he never talks down to the sheep even though the sheep dogs told him sheep are
stupid. He speaks eloquently to the sheep. For example: “Beautifully done. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to you all. Now for one last favor. If the three ladies with collars would kindly walk out of the ring I would be very much obliged.”
Babe doesn’t whine. Even during a period of great self-doubt, when he loses trust in the the top leadership of the farm. Because of the seeds sown through his previous hard work, and the development of his extended network (including the alpha sheep dogs), his colleagues comes through for him just when Babe thinks he needs to give up.
Are the alpha dogs all bad?
Not at all. The alpha dog Rex, who spends a portion of the movie marinating in resentment over Babe’s
success, ends up removing a significant barrier for Babe, so Babe can learn the password of a
different group of sheep and communicate with them.
Rex exemplifies the very best of what managers do: remove barriers so that their employees can grow
as people and move forward with their tasks.
Babe advances to a higher level, Rex’s confidence in his own leadership is restored, the farm is a fully functioning unit again. Let’s not forget the farmer, the CEO of the farm; he is the visionary who, even though farm expenses exceed income, trusted his instinct regarding letting Babe work as a sheep pig.
As the farmer says to Babe after his big accomplishment, “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”