Amongst the most desirable traits in successful leaders is – they are great observers and pick up insights from their surroundings…people they meet, movies they watch, and even their environment. More than 1 great leader has said they have learned valuable insights from nature. Indeed, there is a lot to learn from Nature and for those who seek, it is one of mankind’s greatest sources of insights.
Let’s look at 4 lessons leaders can learn from nature:
You need to Challenge yourself
In nature, change and adversity are the only constants. Torrential rains are followed by droughts and floods are followed by famine. There are challenges galore in Nature – and that is why beings learn to cope, adapt and survive. Every single day is a Challenge. There is a challenge to find food, there is a challenge from predators…it is literally a matter of life and death. Leaders can really learn from this – there will invariably be circumstances when things are not going the way you would want them to be – and they will need to be handled in a dynamic, fearless manner. Here is where leaders are required to step out of their comfort zone and act decisively to resolve the issue. There will always be challenges, it is how you respond that will decide the outcome. It is the mindset that matters – if you face a challenge with a negative mindset then you are likely to fail. Approach in a positive frame of mind, and you become tough and resilient. Challenges come to us to help us discover our true selves and what we are capable of. Leaders can learn this from nature.
Challenge helps you discover who you really are and where you are at as a leader. We learn what we are capable of, what is most valuable to us, and where we want to end up and how to get there.
You need to adapt and innovate
Business, like Nature, is unpredictable with some surprise always waiting around the corner. Situations can be unpredictable because we cannot predict the future…we can only strive to do our best for the outcome we hope to achieve. Leaders will need to observe how beings in nature survive – they adapt to the changing situation and respond the way they are required to. They make the optimum use of the resources they have in the best possible manner because often their very survival depends on it. As in nature, so in business – there are continuous cycles that require everyone to adapt and innovate. Leaders should look upon these cycles as opportunities rather than threats and create paths to growth for self, the team and the organization.
You need to think beyond self
True leadership is devoting oneself to the cause of others – for their good and their survival. It is about being true to something larger than self. Like in Nature – everything contributes to the life of others, even in death. As one creature away, it leaves behind nutrition and sustenance for another. The bushfires serve to release soil nutrients. Trees and animals together recycle oxygen and carbon dioxide. This is trusteeship – as written by an Indian poet, “Nothing in nature lives for itself. Rivers don’t drink their own water. Trees don’t eat their own fruit. Sun doesn’t give heat for itself. Flowers don’t spread fragrance for themselves. Living for others is the Rule of Nature.”
Thus, the essence of leadership is working towards the larger good and being selfless. It is about ensuring the longevity of the goal and the team.
You need to be humble and flexible
Ever seen a bamboo or weed shrub during a storm? They will survive. But the tall, strong, proud Oak tree gets uprooted and falls with a mighty thud. What is the lesson for leaders here? The bamboo or the shrub knew they could not resist the force of the storm and yielded, bending over. Surviving on to see tomorrow. While the Oak stood mighty and proud…and died. The lesson here is that Leaders should know when to retreat and when to advance. There will be situations when it is better to yield and walk away – and there will be situations where they need to give the best possible response. If they are flexible enough in their approach to situations, they will judge each one on it’s own individual merits and respond accordingly.
For leaders there are many useful lessons to learn from Nature. A keen mind and a willingness to observe, learn & practice will enable leaders to grow as professionals and benefit their teams and organizations as well.