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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

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Last Updated on October 13, 2020

How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position

How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position

Have you been stuck in the same position for too long and don’t really know how to get promoted and advance your career?

Feeling stuck could be caused by a variety of things:

  • Taking a job for the money
  • Staying with an employer that no longer aligns with your values
  • Realizing that you landed yourself in the wrong career
  • Not feeling valued or feeling underutilized
  • Taking a position without a full understanding of the role

There are many other reasons why you may be feeling this way, but let’s focus instead on learning what to do now in order to get unstuck and get promoted

One of the best ways to get promoted is by showing how you add value to your organization. Did you make money, save money, improve a process, or do some other amazing thing? How else might you demonstrate added value?

Let’s dive right in to how to get promoted when you feel stuck in your current position.

1. Be a Mentor

When I supervised students, I used to warm them — tongue in cheek, of course — about getting really good at their job.

“Be careful not to get too good at this, or you’ll never get to do anything else.”

This was my way of pestering them to take on additional challenges or think outside the box, but there is definitely some truth in doing something so well that your manager doesn’t trust anyone else to do it.

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This can get you stuck.

Jo Miller of Be Leaderly shares this insight on when your boss thinks you’re too valuable in your current job:

“Think back to a time when you really enjoyed your current role…You became known for doing your job so well that you built up some strong ‘personal brand’ equity, and people know you as the go-to-person for this particular job. That’s what we call ‘a good problem to have’: you did a really good job of building a positive perception about your suitability for the role, but you may have done ‘too’ good of a job!”[1]

With this in mind, how do you prove to your employer that you can add value by being promoted?

From Miller’s insight, she talks about building your personal brand and becoming known for doing a particular job well. So how can you link that work with a position or project that will earn you a promotion?

Consider leveraging your strengths and skills.

Let’s say that the project you do so well is hiring and training new entry-level employees. You have to post the job listing, read and review resumes, schedule interviews, make hiring decisions, and create the training schedules. These tasks require skills such as employee relations, onboarding, human resources software, performance management, teamwork, collaboration, customer service, and project management. That’s a serious amount of skills!

Are there any team members who can perform these skills? Try delegating and training some of your staff or colleagues to learn your job. There are a number of reasons why this is a good idea:

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  1. Cross-training helps in any situation in the event that there’s an extended illness and the main performer of a certain task is out for a while.
  2. As a mentor to a supervisee or colleague, you empower them to increase their job skills.
  3. You are already beginning to demonstrate that added value to your employer by encouraging your team or peers to learn your job and creating team players.

Now that you’ve trained others to do that work for which you have been so valued, you can see about re-requesting that promotion. Explain how you have saved the company money, encouraged employees to increase their skills, or reinvented that project of yours.

2. Work on Your Mindset

Another reason you may feel stuck in a position is explained through this quote:

“If you feel stuck at a job you used to love, it’s normally you—not the job—who needs to change. The position you got hired for is probably the exact same one you have now. But if you start to dread the work routine, you’re going to focus on the negatives.”[2]

In this situation, you should pursue a conversation with your supervisor and share your thoughts and feelings to help you learn how to get promoted. You can probably get some advice on how to rediscover the aspects of that job you enjoyed, and negotiate either some additional duties or a chance to move up.

Don’t express frustration. Express a desire for more.

Present your case and show your boss or supervisor that you want to be challenged, and you want to move up. You want more responsibility in order to continue moving the company forward. Focus on how you can do that with the skills you have and the positive mindset you’ve cultivated.

3. Improve Your Soft Skills

When was the last time you put focus and effort into upping your game with those soft skills? I’m talking about those seemingly intangible things that make you the experienced professional in your specific job skills[3].

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Use soft skills when learning how to get promoted.

    According to research, improving soft skills can boost productivity and retention 12 percent and deliver a 250 percent return on investment based on higher productivity and retention[4]. Those are only some of the benefits for both you and your employer when you want to learn how to get promoted.

    You can hone these skills and increase your chances of promotion into a leadership role by taking courses or seminars.

    Furthermore, you don’t necessarily need to request funding from your supervisor. There are dozens of online courses being presented by entrepreneurs and authors about these very subjects. Udemy and Creative Live both feature online courses at very reasonable prices. And some come with completion certificates for your portfolio!

    Another way to improve your soft skills is by connecting with an employee at your organization who has a position similar to the one you want.

    Express your desire to move up in the organization, and ask to shadow that person or see if you can sit in on some of their meetings. Offer to take that individual out for coffee and ask what their secret is! Take copious notes, and then immerse yourself in the learning.

    The key here is not to copy your new mentor. Rather, you want to observe, learn, and then adapt according to your strengths.

    4. Develop Your Strategy

    Do you even know specifically why you want to learn how to get promoted? Do you see a future at this company? Do you have a one-year, five-year, or ten-year plan for your career path? How often do you consider your “why” and insure that it aligns with your “what”?

    Sit down and make an old-fashioned pro and con list.

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    Write down every positive aspect of your current job and then every negative one. Which list is longer? Are there any themes present?

    Look at your lists and choose the most exciting pros and the most frustrating cons. Do those two pros make the cons worth it? If you can’t answer that question with a “yes,” then getting promoted at your current organization may not be what you really want[5].

    The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. —Mark Twain

    Here are some questions to ask yourself:

    • Why do you do what you do?
    • What thrills you about your current job role or career?
    • What does a great day look like?
    • What does success look and feel like beyond the paycheck?
    • How do you want to feel about your impact on the world when you retire?

    Define success to get promoted

      These questions would be great to reflect on in a journal or with your supervisor in your next one-on-one meeting. Or, bring it up with one of your work friends over coffee.

      Final Thoughts

      After considering all of these points and doing your best to learn how to get promoted, what you might find is that being stuck is your choice. Then, you can set yourself on the path of moving up where you are, or moving on to something different.

      Because sometimes the real promotion is finding your life’s purpose.

      More Tips on How to Get Promoted

      Featured photo credit: Razvan Chisu via unsplash.com

      Reference

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