A Tribe of Leaders
“Eagles come in all shapes and sizes, but you will recognize them chiefly by their attitudes.”
~ E. F. Schumacher
There’s a dramatic difference between chickens and eagles. Observing both has been interesting and given me fresh insights into leadership.
I’ve never been much of a bird watcher until we moved to a piece of land in the country that borders a pond. There must be some kind of billboard in the sky that transmits to bird-dom the message, “Full Service Rest Stop Ahead”. We keep the binoculars handy to observe a fascinating parade of all manner of feathered friends. There are numerous species of ducks, herons, anhingas, hawks, osprey, and eagles. We even hosted a pair of swans recently.
It’s a beautiful sight to watch the bigger birds ride the thermals. Their grace is awe-inspiring. They make flying look easy and not the least bit scary. If I could sprout wings and join them I would – it looks like fun.
That’s what authentic leadership looks like. It invites others into the freedom of expressing their best gifts. It creates an atmosphere where the uninitiated are willing to try their wings. Good leaders train others to fly.
Statistics on workplace engagement make it clear we need more authentic leaders. In a Gallup poll published in January of 2015, it is reported that less than 31.5% of U.S. workers were engaged in their jobs in 2014. Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are “involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.” The estimated cost of lost productivity from disengaged employees is a staggering $550 billion dollars every year.
Everybody is paying the price, either directly or indirectly. It would be smart for all of us to take some responsibility in turning the tide of apathy. Your own attitude is the best place to start.
The Gallup poll reports that Millennials are the generation with the least level of engagement, at 28.9%. I find it interesting that a study by the Bill Gates Foundation reveals that the employee benefit most requested by Millennials is to have a mentor. I interpret that as a cry for leaders with integrity, courage and vision to show the way. The first flying lessons are not usually done solo.
A Tribe of Leaders
The age-old proverb “birds of a feather flock together” holds a warning for us as we contemplate performance in the workplace. In Seth Godin’s bestseller, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, he argues the Internet has ended mass marketing and revived a human social unit from the distant past: tribes. Founded on shared ideas and values, tribes give ordinary people the power to lead and make big change. Or not.
So what tribe are you hanging with?
Back on the farm, I can tell you about a tribe I don’t want to emulate. We decided to raise chickens and in my opinion, they are more frustrating than fascinating. They produce delicious eggs – but when it comes to flying, it’s a bust. I could tell you some vivid stories about their vulnerability. And they’re not smart. The only leadership style observed in the chicken yard is mob mentality. Except for the rooster, who leads by intimidation. The effectiveness of that technique died with the industrial age, though some bosses have yet to get the memo.
I must pose the question, is your workplace raising chickens or providing a place to launch eagles?
Start with what you can change. Invest at least 50% of your time in leading yourself – your own vision, purpose, core values, principles, motivation and behavior. Then you can apply those principles into your relationships. Regardless of what your title or position is, you have influence. You can build a tribe of leaders who desire to ride the thermals and soar. Or you can raise chickens.
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