Nature abounds with lessons, and I am always fascinated to discover that many of those lessons offer insights into leadership. I was recently reading about owls, and I was excited to discover yet another leadership lesson.
Did you know that owls don’t hunt by sight or smell, they hunt primarily by sound? And nature has given them a very sophisticated and elegant way of ensuring that they can catch prey to survive and thrive.
The ears of many species of owls are asymmetrical, with one ear slightly higher but directed downwards and the other somewhat lower but facing upward. As a result, sounds that originate from below eye level are heard louder in the left ear, while those that come from above are heard more clearly in the right. The differences in volume and frequency allow to owl to find its prey, even in complete darkness. The owl’s success lies in its ability to pay attention to what is happening both below and above it.
And therein lies the leadership lesson
Which is not unlike what it takes to be successful as a leader. Leaders have to pay attention to what is happening both below and above them.
Below … what are your employees feeling and doing? Are they excited and engaged in their responsibilities? Are they motivated to increase profitability and improve productivity? Are they talking up your department and organization to others? Or are they disengaged, demotivated, or irritated? Good leaders make it point to find out, frequently and consistently. And if all is not well, they take concrete steps to make things better.
Above … what are your supervisor’s urgencies? And what are his or her immediate manager’s main concerns? Are there issues that are keeping your boss up at night? If so, are you focusing on addressing them? Effective leaders know that unless they keep their finger on the pulse of what the priorities at higher levels in their organization, and how they may be shifting, they cannot be successful in achieving their own and their department goals.
Unfortunately, unlike owls, leaders don’t come with ear asymmetry, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t exercise asymmetrical hearing and awareness. If you are leader, it is critical to deliberately and thoughtfully pay attention to what is happening both below and above you.
What are you doing?
So, do you? Are you putting this leadership lesson into action? Are you keeping your finger on the pulse of what your employees and your bosses are thinking and doing? What are some of the challenges that you face in trying to stay aware of what it going on both below and above? Do tell. And please also share your successes by adding your comments below.
Long-time readers of this blog know that I often find a leadership lesson or two from somewhere in the animal kingdom. It must come from the fact that I am an all-things natural science closet geek :)! So if you enjoyed this post, you might like these fairly recent ones as well. The first one is just from a couple of months ago!
- A leadership lesson from monarch butterflies
- Teamwork: lessons from the meerkat
- Leadership lessons from ants
- Leadership lessons from the American bald eagle
- An unexpected lesson from a sea otter