Why do the animals on my farm seem to manage their groups so easily? Why is there so little conflict in the packs of the dogs, flocks of chickens or herds of cows and horses, though there is clearly a variety of personalities within each group? Why do none of them have ulcers? The answer may surprise you, and it also holds the secret to management success in the human world, too.
In short, animals know how to lead, not just manage. They know how to create and own their positions of power within the group by setting boundaries, enforcing rules without apology yet always remaining calm, fair and approachable. Before we take these animal lessons and apply them to our human situations at home or at work, however, it is critically important to acknowledge that management and leadership are two different things!
Management directs others to do this or that to achieve a desired result. It is Leadership, however, that motivates others to follow those directions and comply. Without leadership skills, a mere “manager” operates at a power deficit. They often struggle, face resistance, clash with those who “should” respect them and feel like they are constantly pushing a rock uphill. No wonder ulcers are common in people-management when there’s an absence of leadership skills to back them up!
Being acknowledged as a “leader,” on the other hand, turns management direction into action, with minimal pushback because a necessary hierarchical order is defined. There is a clear boss and clear subordinates. This is what every animal knows, and it is the secret to the animal leader’s ulcer-free management style. Rather than try to be “one of the gang”, an animal leader knows they are the strongest and the best. They are comfortable at the top of the heap. They accept and own their power position in a matter-of-fact kind of way, so never feel the need to be haughty, boastful or self-important. Rather, they are simply self-assured and confident. They do not apologize for their power nor the directives that flow from it. Perhaps a most important (yet least known) fact is that animal leaders, with all their power, stay sociable and easy to like!
So, how does one elevate their own management to real leadership and become more effective in their role, whether it’s getting children to obey or staff to meet goals? Here are 10 simple guidelines that animal leaders follow, and you can too:
- Stay calm and laser-focused on the message at hand
- Never over-react or get emotional
- Believe in your authority and act with dignity and confidence
- Make your rules crystal clear at the outset and consistent over time
- Don’t be afraid to consequence for broken rules!
- Enforce your rules without apology or anger
- Don’t beat around the bush – get to your point
- Don’t fidget, mumble, act uncertain or worry about losing a friendship
- Look subordinates in the eye whenever you address them but be friendly
- Be likeable, but firm and fair
Nature has much to teach us. All we need to do is listen, watch and learn!