My mom is a great cook, but whenever I ask her for a recipe, she tells me that mere words are not enough to do justice to a dish. She suggests that the best way to learn to cook is to watch her prepare meals and then try them out myself. Now mom doesn’t have a college degree, but she does have a point there. There are in fact many things we can learn through observation alone, and I believe that leadership is one of them. Of course, you may have to adapt what you observe to suit your environment and also use feedback to refine your technique, but in general, it pays to be observant.
- Geese: Now here’s a bunch that knows what synergy truly means. If you’ve ever seen a flock of wild geese flying overhead, you know that they do so in a V formation. Now V may stand for victory, but it also stands for common sense and practicality. The leader of the bunch is the goose at the tip of the V. All the other birds are able to fly easier because of the uplift caused by its wings. And each of the birds that follow fly assisted by the previous bird’s uplift. This way, by pooling their resources and helping the weaker ones, the geese are able to travel 71 percent more than they normally could. Also, when the leader tires, it falls back and another goose takes its place. So for synergy and cooperation, look no further than the geese.
- Ants: Ants are some of the most diligent creatures on earth. The tale of the Ant and the Grasshopper tells us that this tiny animal slogs all day and gathers food for its community when it is available and stores it away for leaner times. It does not waste time and does what it needs to do to secure its future. Also, the ant uses pheromones to leave trails for its fellow ants. This helps the bunch find the fastest way to food and the best way to avoid danger. Aspiring leaders can learn a thing or two from ants – how to work hard for what they want and how best to lead their followers in simple ways.
- Dolphins: Dolphin trainers will attest to the fact that these beautiful beasts of the sea are not like other animals – they don’t respond positively to threats or punishments of any kind. Rather, if you want the dolphin to do your bidding, you must coax, cajole and praise. In our world too, praise and encouragement work much better in getting people to do your bidding willingly. The operative word here is “willingly” because any task done unwillingly is never well done.
I’ve named just a few here, but I do believe that there are many more acts that we can observe from nature and adapt to the boardroom and the corporate world. So the next time you hear the phrases “It’s a dog-eat-dog world” and call competition a rat race, remember that you can also draw positive examples to follow from the animal kingdom.