Tag Archives: Leadership

Leaders, Lions, and Gazelles

I am an Account Manager/Recruiter for a boutique headhunting agency specializing in web applications.  When I first interviewed with my firm in September 2005, the PEO sat me down and told me the following African proverb:

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.  It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.

Every morning a lion wakes up.  It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.

Moral: It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better start running.

As the PEO concluded, he said, “Now that moral is feel-good bullshit.  We don’t hand out participant ribbons in our world.  Tell me which animal is faster.”

I sat and thought for about 20 seconds.

“The Lion,” I responded.

“Why?” the PEO asked.

“The Lion runs faster to be King, and the Lion runs faster because he is King” I answered.

I was hired the next day.


1. What happens if the lion rests on its laurels once it is “fastest”?  How does this correlate with the business world?

2. Where is competitive advantage gained?  Just as workout programs and diets must be tailored individually, how must you tailor the fitness plan for your business to maximize results?  For yourself?

3. If the fastest lion chases, kills, and eats more gazelles than he needs to sustain life, will this benefit or hurt his future performance?  Do businesses become bloated and sluggish in the same way?  What is the optimal “feeding” level for your business?

4. In the business world, is it harder for a gazelle to become a lion, or for a lion to revert to being a gazelle?


“Whenever you are not working to improve, your competition is.” This does not mean “work” related activities only.  Every action–diet, fitness, reading material, personal relationships, rest/recovery time, etc. should be calculated to create a progressive, well-rounded warrior.  Stay hungry.


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Liquid Ambition

With 97% of the world’s water undrinkable ocean and 3rd world nations (especially in Asia and Africa) suffering from a lack of potable water, access to clean water is an oft-overlooked problem Ripple Effects (see esp. 2nd to last paragraph). As one of the UN’s Millenium Development Goals, the UN aims to “reduce by half the amount of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water” Goal #7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability.

Led by Danish company Vestergaard Frandsen and their revolutionary LifeStraw, check out the following examples of innovators addressing global concerns in addition to bottom lines:



Healing Waters International

MetaVu, Inc.: Return on Environment (RoE)

Solar Water Purifier (click on “Solar Water Purifier” under Further Info.)


1. Is it possible for market based capitalism to drive profit via the solution of existing needs rather than manufactured wants? Which strategy is more profitable in the long term?

2. As the world becomes “flatter” and globalization demands not just awareness, but participation in addressing global crises, what role can your company play within its niche?


Donate some time, money, or your particular talents to an organization/project of global concern, even if acting on a local level.

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Trimming the Fat

According to the 2007 white paper “Ten Trends” Ten Trends: #9 Leadership for Longevity by the Center for Creative Leadership in Colorado Springs, CO, regular exercisers not only scored more favorably in peer evaluations than non-exercisers, but also outperformed non-exercisers in leadership categories (e.g. organization, authenticity, etc.).

CCL’s study adds to the onslaught of recent health-related research, highlighted by John J. Ratey, MD’s book “Spark” Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, a scholarly argument for mind-body dualism that would make Rousseau proud.

Several pioneering companies, to include Google, Caterpillar, Microsoft, and Yamaha Corp. of America have taken the hint, reducing the amount of available junk food and bringing in leaner options.

For an excellent overview, see the article “Hide the Doritos! Here Comes HR” in April 2008’s Business Week:Hide the Doritos! Here Comes HR


1. Are you what you eat? Could simple changes in diet and sleep habits increase productivity at work?

2. Try to understand the motivators behind why you may reach for junk food. Do you truly enjoy the taste, or is it simply a packaged, easily accessible, more convenient option?


Make 3 healthy weekday lunches each Sunday afternoon or evening (to eliminate excuses about not having time the night prior or morning of) and limit yourself to dining out 1-2 times per week.

Consider the aphorism “What goes in comes out,” both in terms of appearance and productivity.

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Web 2.0, SoJo, and Horatio Alger

One need not look far to see the growing impact of Web 2.0 Web 2.0 Spending Boom and social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and the like. Already, these sites have become powerful mediums of self-expression, self-promotion, employer screening, and a host of other things. The Web presents seemingly unlimited opportunity for visionaries and trend-setters, where the skillful use of MySpace and blogs can turn even the likes of Tila Tequila A Shot at Love into a modern day Horatio Alger story. Of sorts.

To see several pioneering individuals and companies who are successfully molding Web 2.0 into mediums that change the way we receive, store, transmit, and process information, visit the following sites:

SoJo Pioneer (view “Meet Kevin Sites” tab for specific information on project scope)

Photobucket: (Re)weaving the Web

PodTech.net: Web 2.0 + Brand Storytelling


1. How can your business use the power of Web 2.0 to excel? Online blogs to promote an “inside look” at the organization? Resume submissions via YouTube?

2. What qualities will distinguish the “one-hit wonders” of Web 2.0 from companies that build a solid foundation/niche and stand the test of time?

3. How can your business break down the massive amounts of information (much of it irrelevant, incorrect, or potentially harmful) on the Web to find, process, and apply the gems that can revolutionize your field?


Brainstorm ways your company can use Web 2.0 technologies to advance its interests.

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The 80/20 Rule: Nature vs. Nurture?

Most of us have heard of the “80/20 Rule,” or Pareto Principle, which can be applied to almost any activity Using the 80/20 Rule to Simplify Life. As applied to workforce productivity, a central concern of leaders worldwide, the rule may be stated as follows: “20% of your employees will perform 80% of the work.”

This assertion begs the question: What is preventing the overwhelming majority of workers from performing at capability?

This question in turn provokes a variation of the infamous “Nature vs. Nurture” debate. Are 80% of workers inherently lazy and unproductive? There are certainly many days (Mondays, anyone?) when this pessimistic statement rings all too true. Taking a slightly more optimistic view of humanity, however, perhaps some employees have been temporarily “derailed” due to a variety of circumstances (micromanaging by superiors, personal concerns, etc.).

Take the example of a middle school student who is performing poorly in school. Frustrated, the teacher moves him to the back of the class. The student’s performance deteriorates further, and he enters a downward spiral. Perhaps the student is a troublemaker. Perhaps he is lazy. Perhaps he has a learning disorder. But what if I told you all the student needed to start with was a pair of glasses because his eyesight was poor?

This situation is analogous to what often happens in the workforce. Often, when an employee fails to “make the numbers,” an otherwise talented asset finds him/herself strangled by micromanaging, stressed by poor reviews and warnings from higher up, etc. and performs worse as a result.

The 80/20 rule as applied to leadership actually operates in reverse. A true leader is akin to a gardener, with his team/organization as the plant. 80% of the plant is good, and 20% may need to be trimmed from time to time. Instead of hacking apart the plant if it doesn’t grow, the effective leader is better off giving the plant a little more water and sunlight, relaxing, and letting the plant follow its natural inclination–to grow and flourish.


1. Does the 80/20 rule ring true in your office? If so, how are the 80% treated? Are the results you achieve in keeping with the way the majority (80%) of your team is treated? (Hint: if you feel your company is underperforming, the answer string is likely: Yes, Poor, Yes. Coincidence?)

2. Do you prefer to prune or nurture? Why? Which approach do you think will achieve greater long-term success?

3. When is it appropriate to “prune”?

ACTION: Focus on “creating space” for your team to achieve. New Generation Leadership

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The Honor System

According to the 2007 white paper “What’s Next?” published by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) in Colorado Springs, CO, only 8% of responding professionals believed “Ethical Decision Making” was an essential leadership skill of the future. And yet, several visionaries, from Radiohead to restaurant entrepreneurs, are making headlines by betting on personal ethics, creating systems in which consumers determine the value of the good or service purchased.

For specific examples, check out the following websites:

Radiohead Bypasses Labels/Piracy, Trusts Consumers

One World Everybody Eats

Terra Bite Lounge

Is such a social experiment profitable? To see the results of one such endeavor, read the following excerpt from the 2005 book Freakonomics, profiled in the New York Times: Bagel Man\’s Honor System


1. Are such seemingly extreme examples utopian and easily dismissible? Allow yourself to imagine a world that operated on the Honor System. What would it look like? What would be your role? The role of your company?

2. At their core, all human interactions–business, social, or personal–revolve around relationships. As social creatures, human beings form friendships, select partners, and do businesses with individuals whom we trust. What is your business doing to inspire trust in its consumer base? What more can you do?

3. Do most businesses treat customers as cohorts or culprits? What effect does this have on consumer psyche? On profit margins? How does your business treat customers?

ACTION: Consider the reciprocal implications of businesses actively demonstrating trust in their consumer base.

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