In this column, we always try to discuss leadership matters in the most practical manner possible.
In this instalment, we will look at leadership lessons from the characteristics of the king of the skies in the bird kingdom; the eagle. Next time you happen to catch a glimpse of an eagle perched high above a tree or cliff, just watch closely and see how attentive the bird is.
The eagle’s body is usually still and it would constantly tilt its head from side to side; observing what is happening below, around and above it. A leader needs to be fully aware of what is happening within their organisation’s internal and external environments.
Have a keen vision
Every leader needs to have a keen eye for opportunities that are available, for an eagle will starve if it does not keep an eye out for possible prey.
Eagles have a keen vision; their eyes are specially designed for long distance focus and clarity. They can spot another eagle soaring from a distance of scores of kilometres away in a clear sky. Do you think a leader who does not a have a keen big picture vision will survive; you guessed right, only luck will keep them afloat.
The characteristic of having an “eagle-sharp” vision is what has made great leaders of this world great. There are many great leaders that came and went; they all shared one characteristic, which is having a “Vision”. A good leader should always have a vision that guides and leads their team towards the organisation’s purposive goals.
Any leader who cannot articulate a vision about what organisation is a like captain of a ship that is adrift at sea, whose concern is just floating and not necessarily going anywhere.
There is a quote from Brian Tracy that captures the essence of leadership vision, “All successful people men and women are big dreamers.
They imagine what their future could be, ideal in every respect, and then they work every day toward their distant vision, that goal or purpose”. Tracy is a leading authority on human potential, personal effectiveness and sales.
Aim to fly high
Eagles can fly into heights of up to an altitude of ten thousand feet, yet when they catch sight of prey from that height they are able to swiftly swoop to the ground. At those scary heights there will be no other birds, if an eagle meets another bird at that altitude, it surely would be another eagle.
It is advisable for a leader to take time out to be alone and see the big picture; just like the eagle which gets a wider view of its hunting grounds and it sees things from the extreme heights.
Eagles stay away from pigeons that fly from one human dwelling place to another looking for bread crumbs. I believe that pigeons never get to see how big the hunting ground is because they fly only high enough to avoid bumping into walls and trees.
The eagle does not mingle around with the pigeons; simply because pigeons scavenge on the ground and grumble and complain all day long.
Next time you see pigeons wondering about on the ground, go closer to them and you will hear the grumbling sounds they make. On the other hand, eagles fly high and make no noise; waiting for opportunities to strike their next prey.
Effective leaders do not waste time complaining about the situation, be it economic fundamentals or political dispensations, for they know that all they need to do is take a step back from the situation and then strike on all success opportunities they can spot within the chaos.
Eagles will glide swiftly and catch their prey, whilst pigeons are busy scratching for food on the ground; similar to leaders who spend time complaining about unfavourable economic and political situations.
Must love challenges
The eagle is the only bird that loves the storm, because when clouds gather, the eagles get excited. When there is a storm all other birds fly away from the storm due to fear for their lives. However an eagle will fly to a high altitude and then it spreads its mighty wings and uses the current to soar to even greater heights.
The eagle takes advantage of the very storm that other birds fear and hurry for cover. Every leader faces countless challenges in their day-to-day running of their organisation; these storms should be approached with an attitude to rise to greater altitudes. Like an eagle, a leader can only rise to greater heights if they face the challenges head-on without running away from them.
If a leader rises above a storm, like an eagle they would get the current of the storm, as the eagle stops flapping and uses the pressure of the raging storm to soar the clouds and glide. Once above the storm a leader would get time to regroup forces and plan the next strategic moves.
Get time for self-renewal
Eagles have the ability to accept and deal with reality when they realise that they have lost their mojo or energy, this reflection happens at the time an eagle reaches the age of 30 years.
At this age the eagle physical condition deteriorates at a very rapid rate, making it difficult for the bird of prey to survive. The eagle will not give up and accept its demise, rather it retreats to a mountain top and over a period of several months it goes through a metamorphosis.
The eagle plucks out its talons, feathers and knocks off its own beak by banging it against a rock. The eagle will have a regrowth of the removed body parts, allowing the it to live for another 30 – 40 years.
Sam Hlabati is a senior professional in Human Resources (SPHR®), a Certified Compensation Professional (CCP®) and a Global Remuneration Professional (GRP®). E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter handle; @samhlabati