If we take the time to observe and reflect, we can learn some significant lessons from the animal kingdom all around us. Each species of animal has its own strengths and weaknesses; and within the species, each of them is a unique creature. As leaders (and would-be leaders), the lessons are there for the taking if we pay attention. These 10 lessons from giraffes are great examples of what we can do to become better leaders:
1. Giraffes stick their neck out.
They display their strengths, expose their vulnerabilities and take informed risks to survive and thrive. We should do the same when we are acting alone or as part of a team to demonstrate our own leadership capabilities.
2. Giraffes stand tall.
They take advantage of their natural attributes to establish a commanding presence. Each of us has some sort of advantage in each situation; it is our job to find it and use it. This approach focuses on our positives rather than creating false confidence from others’ weaknesses.
3. Giraffes use their natural camouflage.
They blend in to allow the environment to work for them rather than fighting it. Some of our exteriors may look similar, but as we get closer to each other, recognizing the uniqueness of each of our traits as “spots” is what brings value to the diversity.
4. Giraffes take a higher view.
They have the ability to look down from above. Whether it is from a physical, mental or positional viewpoint, we can take a higher-level look at each situation to gain perspective. Sharing these perspectives with others provides a strategic advantage.
5. Giraffes use their talents and skills.
They have special talents and skills that other animals do not have, and acknowledge them for the advantage they provide. We each have unique talents and skills. Building upon these rather than resting on our laurels contributes to our own continuous growth and instills confidence in others, which can benefit them as well.
6. Giraffes don’t confuse size with strength.
They are tall and large, but recognize their lankiness limits a concentrated strength. As we remember from the story of David and Goliath, that size may not guarantee might or ability. Be careful not to prejudge others based on individual physical attributes; you may be creating an artificial advantage or disadvantage for yourself.
7. Giraffes take time to relinquish the lead position in the herd.
They realize that even natural leaders need a break. Sharing roles informally helps to build others’ capabilities and allows leaders who have been expending their physical and mental energy to rejuvenate.
8. Giraffes run steady with the herd.
They travel as a group to create collective strength when needed. We often establish our identity with the herd we run with, yet it should not define us individually. None of us is smarter than all of us. Operating as part of the team provides increased safety to you, and your presence can provide the same to others.
9. Giraffes continually seek out new resources.
They realize that as current resources are depleted, moving to more resource-rich environments is a natural and advantageous approach. “The only thing that is constant is change itself”- Heraclitus. Hope is not a strategy, as we need more and different elements to feed our growth. Staying in the same place and hoping change will come about is a passive strategy that can only be overcome by initiating change.
10. Giraffes are loyal to those who have earned it.
They are not tied to a single herd. As you and your team grow, those who have earned your trust also deserve your loyalty. Reward and recognize those who have always had your back, but untether those who are disloyal and for whom you have lost trust.
I challenge you to take one or more of these 10 leadership lessons from giraffes and apply them to your daily life. Build your own personal leadership brand, and at the same time improve the lives in the herd(s) that travel with you.