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The 10 Leadership Lessons We Can all Learn from Giraffes

The 10 Leadership Lessons We Can all Learn from Giraffes

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

More by this author

Dr. Kevin Gazzara

Senior partner at Magna Leadership Solutions

The 10 Leadership Lessons We Can all Learn from Giraffes The 6 Best Practices to Kill Employee Motivation and Engagement 7 Critical Statements Every Manager Should Avoid To Be More Respectable 12 Ways to Identify a High-Maintenance Employee 8 Deadly Traps that Cause Our Failures to Accomplish Everyday Work

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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