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How owls hunt can teach leaders something about how to lead
Nature abounds with lessons, and I am always fascinated to discover that many of those lessons offer insights into leadership.
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.
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.
So, do you? 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. Comment directly on the blog at www.turningmanagersintoleaders.com/blog