Lions and Eagles

Lions and Eagles

In recent articles I’ve taken you through four dysfunctional board behaviours, each represented by an animal: the ostrich (denies the problem and does nothing); the wild goose (thinks they know more than they do and is busy but without purpose or strategy); the elephant in the room (ignores the problem) and the big bad wolf (sees the problem heading towards them but doesn’t do enough to head it off – an act of neglect).

This time, I turn to the positive behaviours of the lion and the eagle. These have been highlighted in the writings of the late Dr Myles Munroe.

Let’s consider the lion first. We call him the king of the jungle, but why is that? He’s more often found in forests than in jungles and he’s not the biggest, the fastest or the most intelligent animal. So why is he the king? Even in his own family, it’s the lionesses that do most of the important work.

It’s all about attitude.

As Dr Munroe put it, when the lion looks at an elephant, he doesn’t stop to think that the elephant is bigger and more intelligent than him. He just thinks: ‘Lunch!’

Organisations need to show the same attitude of determination to address their challenges. This comes from getting the culture of the organisation right. Peter Drucker said that culture eats strategy for breakfast – and he’s right.

I’ve written before about the importance of an organisation getting its purpose, vision, strategy and culture aligned. You have to have the belief and the culture to address challenges.

We live in a world where the only constant is change. In this world you have to adapt. Organisations have to respond. In previous articles I have highlighted examples of businesses that failed to adapt quickly enough, did not have the knowledge or chose to ignore emerging threats. We’ve looked at Carillion and Enron (ostrich), the regional press and the BBC (goose), Kodak and Nokia (elephant) and Thomas Cook and Blockbuster (wolf).

The second positive behaviour boards need to adopt is represented by the eagle. The eagle soars high in the sky giving him (or her) a clear view of everything.
Boards need to be visionary in their approach. They have to be able to acquire the knowledge that allows them to look into the future and assess the prospects in their sector or industry, They have to be forward-thinking and able to make plans for sustainable, long term success. They must be alert to opportunities and threats and able to adapt quickly and smoothly in the same way that an eagle stays on top of the air currents.

An eagle board does not miss any important details. It keeps a sharp-eyed focus on the all-important progress against business plans, objectives and outcomes – but in the context of a visionary strategy.

Like the claws of an eagle, the eagle board keeps an iron grip on things. The eagle looks at challenges without flinching and looks over the horizon as well. It is able to deal with multiple risk factors and events that could scupper other organisations.

Next time, in the final article of this series, I will look at some new ways of thinking about the challenges facing boards and strategies to deal with them.