"I think we need to hire some goats to teach this model of leadership to our students."
The Haas colleague who started the thread is referring to this Medium story written by a woman in healthcare who, after hours of sitting in an overly air-conditioned room listening to various management consultants promote this or that model of leadership, started looking up facts about goats on Wikipedia because she needed something to do.
This led her to present what she called the "Goat Model" of leadership, which turned into a team-wide challenge when another colleague suggested:
"What if each of us picked an animal totem, and built a simple leadership model around that?"
So without further ado, I present to you for the very first time:
The "Elephant Model" of Leadership
Featuring 5 simple tenets that anyone can adopt from the elephant's example to make themselves a better leader:
1. Practice self-awareness.
Elephants join humans, apes and dolphins in being able to recognize themselves in the mirror.
Self-awareness is a pre-requisite for leadership. If you don't know who you are -- if you can't recognize your strengths and weaknesses and beliefs and values and motivations -- then why would anyone trust you to show us where to go, and what we're capable of?
2. Exercise empathy and compassion.
The ability to distinguish between self and others is closely related to empathy and altruism, which the elephant routinely demonstrates -- recognizing the needs of other beings, and sometimes going out of her way to meet them even at the risk of her own safety.
Like one story about a cow who worked relentlessly to save a baby rhinoceros stuck in the mud, despite repeated attacks from its mother.
How many humans do you know who act out of compassion, and not their own survival instincts?
If you want to succeed as a leader, you have to genuinely want to help other people succeed. Otherwise, you may win at first; but your wins will be short-lived and finite.
3. Rely on creativity, cooperation and available tools to solve problems.
Elephants demonstrate cooperation, play, creativity, and tool use -- all indicators of a highly advanced brain that closely resembles that of humans.
One study jerry-rigged a tasty bucket of corn, so that when a pair of elephants pulled two ends of the same rope simultaneously, a table bearing the corn slid within reach. However, if one end of rope was pulled before or without the other, the rope slipped from the table and the elephants got nothing.
After a couple trials, the elephants would wait at their rope for their partner for as long as 45 seconds. The elephants would also not pull the rope if their partner lacked access to the cord. Instead, they retreated away from the table.
Elephants use and modify branches to swat at flies; they've been known to drop large rocks onto an electric fence to cut off the electricity; and to chew bark into the shape of a ball to plug up a watering hole and prevent evaporation, so they can come back later for a drink.
When you come up against obstacles, look around you for the allies and resources that can help you get whatever's in the way, out of the way.
4. Follow your instincts.
Elephants LOVE to eat.
And yet, they only digest about 30% of the seeds they consume, which makes their poop an important distributor for various plant species.
By digging watering holes for themselves, they unwittingly sustain other animals in times of drought.
And, they can't help but break down small trees as they move through the forest, which clears the way for grasses to grow.
Each of these actions alone may seem small, but they add up to one important fact:
If elephants disappeared, the savannah would eventually cease to exist.
Thus, simply by following her instincts, the elephant has a far bigger impact on her environment than would be predicted by her biomass.
This makes her a "keystone" species; like the keystone in an arch, if the elephant were removed, the whole ecosystem would collapse.
So even if your impact SEEMS small-scale now...
Know that all the little steps you take today may be helping generate a WHOLE ECOSYSTEM in the future, that would never have existed if you hadn't decided to forge your own path.
5. Matriarchs -- for the win!
Elephants have complex matriarchal social structures.
That's right -- the oldest, biggest, wisest woman serves as the leader of the herd.
(While the males go off in solitude, patrolling their territory and fighting each other for the right to procreate).
Countless studies of human society show that when you educate a woman or put her in charge of household finances, the result is long-term social benefit in multiple contexts.
Meaning: Healthier, more secure, more educated groups of human beings making better choices for their communities and for the planet.
Do you ever stop to wonder what the world will look like, once we collectively decide it's time for WOMEN to step up and lead?
... What is your inner elephant telling you?
And, if YOU were to draw up a simple model of leadership around an animal that calls to you...
Which one would you choose, and what would it have to teach us?