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Are You an Ostrich or a Giraffe?
Part 1: Leadership
In 2007 I had the great joy of taking a 'once in a lifetime' trip to Africa. Then came the "Great Recession" (officially starting Dec. 2007 and ending June 2009) with a new normal. I couldn't help but notice two distinct leadership strategies being played out - the Ostrich and the Giraffe. I created this analogy from my inspiration of Africa and my passion for creating strong leaders. What follows is the first of a short series which I will post over the next couple of weeks. Here's to your safari into Africa..and yourself as a leader.
It had always been a dream of mine to travel to Africa and, in April of that year, I made that dream come true. My fellow travelers and I were privileged to spend 21 days on the continent, including seven full days on safari observing animals of all shapes and sizes in their natural habitat.
I was enthralled by everything I saw, but two animals made the greatest impact: the ostrich and the giraffe. I was initially fascinated by a couple of things in particular:
Although it’s a myth that ostriches bury their heads in the sand when frightened, the truth is that they lie down — as flat as they can — hoping that whatever is coming will pass by. Giraffes, on the other hand, do the opposite: They stretch their necks out further, observe their surroundings carefully and prepare for either fight (their kick can kill a lion) or flight (they can run at speeds up to 32 miles per hour).
In other words, giraffes are proactive. That doesn’t mean they aren’t scared; it just means they know that, in order to survive, they need to look ahead and assess what alternatives are available.
2009/10: The year of the ostrich
Which brings us to 2009/10 — a year of “perceived danger.” One of hunkering down because we all heard that something was coming, or we saw another company or industry struggling, and we assumed we were as well.
As a result, many business owners began to lie down, like ostriches, and wait for the danger to pass. Pretty soon, a fair number of these executives were frozen, stuck, doing things such as:
If you're intrigued, check back... my next post will be: 5 ways to bring out your inner giraffe
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Lynda Silsbee is Founder and President of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration. She has spent more than 30 years creating and leading high performance teams. Along with the other LEAP Certified Coaches, she reports that helping managers make the LEAP to leader is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her work.
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