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10 Powerful Leadership Lessons from Nature

In this article, you will learn 10 powerful characteristics of effective leaders. These 10 traits have been tested, polished and proven over millions of years of evolution!

1. Be polite and observe etiquette.

It may seem like the most aggressive animal becomes the leader in the animal kingdom. However, in reality, it is different.

In fact, an interesting experiment proved this – the researchers took two groups of young landless song-birds. In 1 of them, they artificially raised the level of the testosterone, making the birds very active and bold. However, this group still did not manage to win a good nest area over the more mature competitors.

Seems surprising?

Well, the reason these aggressive birds could not win over the nest area is because they did not follow the moral code of conduct.

So, what is the lesson here?

People must see you as a mature and fair individual before they feel comfortable about your leadership.

So, how do you practically exercise this?

Well, it is doing those simple things that you already know, but at times tend to forget to do, because we have a lot on our minds and live in a very hectic world.

Here are some tips to be perceived as a trustworthy individual:

  1. Dress appropriately.
  2. Always come on time.
  3. Be cautious with promises – always stay true to your words.
  4. Be friendly and positive to people.
  5. Always be prepared.

 

2. Be competent. Or team up with the competent. 

 

3. Give people what they want.

When you give people what they want, they will help you get the things you want.

Nature shows this too – before fighting for the leadership position, chimpanzees groom both their supporters and the opposition. Chimpanzees know that this is the best way to earn the support of all for future battle.

In the real world, politicians follow this principle too.

Source: Flickr

Research has shown that demonstrations of care is the best way to earn the support of others.

This is precisely what differentiates good leaders – good leaders demonstrate this care consistently.

When you meet the needs of others, you will be able to meet the needs of yourself too. Zig Ziglar perfectly captures this –

"You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want."

 

4. Be original.

Here is Michael.

Michael is one of the monkeys that is being observed by the scientists. Once upon a time, this monkey stole 2 gasoline cans. It dragged the canister towards the monkey clan and started banging the two cans together. Not only was this very loud, but it was also very new to the other monkeys.

In fact, the monkeys were so impressed that they elected Michael to be their leader. This just goes to show that authenticity and originality can really take you to the leadership position.

“It’s easy to follow, but great people don’t follow they lead.” – Anonymous

However, originality may not be enough to take you up to the leadership position. In another experiment, a monkey was separated from the rest and was taught how to retrieve a banana from the box. After this, the monkey was reunited with the rest of clan. When the rest of the monkeys observed that cool manoeuvres this monkey could do with the box, the outcome was surprisingly negative. In fact, the alpha male beat up this monkey and took the banana away.

This story can be paralleled to real world events too! For example, on the famous Shark Tank show, when the entrepreneur pitched his idea of spiced honey,

one of the shark judges, Kevin O'Leary, replied the following -

“The big honey companies can also add spices to honey, they already have the shelf space, and they will crush you.”

Therefore originality is a double edged trait – while it may not always yield positive results, it is an essential component of being a leader.

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 

 

5. Be ready to fight for yourself.

In the animal kingdom, it is usually the alpha male that has the highest amount of testosterone and hence the highest amount of aggression. These chaps never back down from a challenge.

This is the same with mankind leadership. No one is as interested in your projects as yourself. Therefore, you are the one who should stand up for yourself.

"When somebody challenges you, fight back. Be brutal, be tough.”

Donald Trump.

 

6. Use social proof.

African ostrich hatch eggs and raise kids. Moreover, they fight against each other, and the winner adopts the alien kids.

At first, this may seem contrary to evolutionary adaption. After all, how can adopting other kids be beneficial to you, right?

Well. There is an advantage to this. The quantity of kids one has acts as an indicator of capacity to the opposite gender – social proof.

If others consider you to be appealing, it increases your social status in the group.

This is exactly why we use testimonials as part of our marketing strategy. Similarly, in politics, one candidate endorsing the other acts as a social proof of credibility.

All in all, social proof drives your status and leadership perception in a group.

 

7. Look good.

African suricates have strict matriarchy. The female leader is not only the most aggressive but also the fattest.

Similarly, in humankind, even today, in some countries, a pot-belly is still considered to be a sign of wealth.

Researches have shown that people make their first impression about you within the first 4 seconds. Therefore, like it or not, others will judge you based on your appearance.

A leader is expected to embody strength. Therefore, you must look healthy, fit and energetic.

 

8. "Mmm, I get high with a little help from my friends".

2 beta Baboons can overcome and replace 1 alfa. Japanese macaques are patriarchal, however 2 females can team up and take on the leadership position.

What does this mean for us? Well, it is 2 magic words – negotiate and cooperate.

Apart from this personal development website, I run another one – online chess academy. This website had another major competitor. After a while, we decided to cooperate. Today, this competitor sells more of our products than any of our  affiliates.

This strategy is worded very nicely by the Beatles:

“Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends

Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends

Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends”

 

9. Be the source of new ideas.

Here is an interesting experiment conducted with Lemurs -

The Lemurs were given a box with a grape inside. They had to figure out how to open the complicated box in order to get to the grape. At one point, a young “low status” Lemur figured out how to open the box. When this happened, the other Lemeurs started to gather around this young chap and groom him, thereby raising his hierarchical status.

Therefore, if you are a source of new ideas and people strive to learn from you, you are automatically put in the leadership position.

 

10. Train your leadership skills.

Poultry yard is a great space for learning leadership because they usually follow very distinct hierarchy.

On a poultry yard, there is usually one chicken that is dominated by all others – the “looser” chicken.

For the experiment, they took the “looser” chicken and moved it into another poultry barn with smaller and weaker chickens. The looser chicken won its first battle on the new place. This sparked a sudden change in the “looser” chicken – his testosterone levels increased, thereby making him more aggressive and confident. This in turn increases the chances of the “looser” chicken being able to win battles, so much so that he can even become the alpha rooster in the yard.

After this, when the “looser” chicken is shifted back to its original poultry yard, it will be equipped to obtain a much higher status than it had initially. This experiment goes to show that a ‘leadership mentality’ can indeed be learnt.

“Look for small victories and build on that. These little victories make you feel great, and you keep going.”

— Arnold Schwarzenegger

 

Bonus tip: “Independent individual” phenomenon.

In the modern world, where open plan offices and team building are becoming popular, it is important to remember the “independent individual” phenomenon. There are individuals who care less about their social status and instead enjoying their own company.

This relates to a story from the animal kingdom – once upon a time, there was a baboon who lived in isolation. Often times, it used to sit idle and stare at the landscape. At one point of time, it decided to reunite with his group. Surprisingly, it quickly became a leader. After a while, it was overthrown. When this happened, it returned to the suburb and continued living how it used to before – peacefully by itself.

There was a somewhat similar story in human kinds - Diocletian was a Roman emperor 284–305 CE. His reorganization of the fiscal, administrative, and military systems of the empire saved it from near anarchy state.

He was the emperor for 20 years, and by the age of 60 decided to retire.  Soon after, the empire started suffering from inner conflicts and political crisis. People begged Diocletian to return to the throne. To them, Diocletian replied -

"If you could show the cabbage that I planted with my own hands to your emperor, he definitely wouldn't dare suggest that I replace the peace and happiness of this place with the storms of a never-satisfied greed."

P.S We hope you enjoyed this thought provoking article. Leave a comment below and let us know which leadership trait you liked the most.

Igor Smirnov

Igor Smirnov

Psychologist, blogger, chess Grandmaster, Internet entrepreneur. Follow Igor on Facebook

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