"Don't Take Your Guns to Town" is a 1958 single by Johnny Cash. The single was his fifth release to reach the number one position on the country chart, where it stayed for six weeks. This is a classic Cash and is even featured in the VH1 Storytellers collection between Cash and Nelson.
What I love about this song, besides the slow, methodical bass line is the story. Billy Joe is a naïve farm boy who doesn’t know better. His mother begs him to leave his guns at home before riding into a cattle town. Billy Joe finds himself in a precarious position, trying to prove himself as a new presence, not scared, vying for position and credibility. In the end…(Spoiler Alert), Billy Joe is no match for the experienced gunslingers and should have left his guns at home. He should have listened to his mother.
What we learn from Billy Joe’s mistakes helps us be successful collaborators, and better leaders. One of the key dimensions to successful collaboration is tending to the relationships on a developmental continuum ranging from networking to true collaboration. As a leader you need to tend to these relationships from the very beginning. When we are new to a collaborative relationship, it is key to “Leave your Guns at Home”. We can move faster an swifter through the collaborative relationships continuum by taking the time in the beginning by following a few key tenants.
1.Listen- Identify the needs of both parties. (Don’t be quick to run your mouth Billy Joe!)
2.Understand- What is the motivation for collaboration? What is your place?
3.Show Humility- If you make a mistake, own it. Humility builds trust.
4.Show Confidence, not Arrogance. For goodness sake.. no one needs to get shot in the first meeting.
Following these simple rules of engagement when starting a new collaborative relationship can help everyone be successful. Leadership is about setting the stage. Leadership is bringing people together. When you are transitioning from the farm to the Saloon, leadership is about leaving your guns at home!