leadership lessons from birds

Get your own dang french fry!

Every year in August and early September, mournful kazoo-like sounds distract me from work in my home office. Without even looking up, my heart does a little empathy flip. The sound is a baby crow trying to understand why it’s mama and papa are no longer feeding it.

Now whether you like crows or not (and they seem to be more fashionable lately, thanks in part to Crow Planet, which I adored), this scenario has got to pull at your heart strings a little.  I find myself thinking “Just give him a goddamn french fry already! Its not like you didn’t steal them from my neighbor’s dumpster anyway! Poor thing.”

But the parent crow remains coolly oblivious to the pleading, eating the entire french fry/soiled cardboard/carrion right in front of it’s progeny. You’d think crows are terrible parents, but they’re one of the most doting, family-oriented birds in the animal kingdom.

In order for the baby to have any chance of survival (and most crows die before they reach their first birthday) the parent has to let go. The baby crow doesn’t understand this, of course, and I project s/he feels abandoned and terrified. And hungry.

Puts me in mind of the many times I’ve felt the same way – lost, scared, fresh out of faith in the world. Hungry for love and comfort. When I can get quiet and pay close attention during those times, I remember that these feelings lead to a greater sense of spaciousness and peace than I’ve felt before, a clearing out and letting go that was absolutely necessary for a big leap that I didn’t know I was capable of making.

Maybe the parent crow is silently beaming through the barrage of pleading “I have faith in you – I know you can do it – go find your own food so you can come back to us!”

Is the universe sending you a message of faith that you’ve been mis-translating? Tell me all about it.



A dramatic leadership lesson from the bird world

The other morning I was in the small park near my house with my dog. I was talking to a neighbor, when a loud cawing noise caught our attention. We looked out across the athletic field and saw a bald eagle flying straight toward us, trailed by 5 or 6 very cranky-sounding crows. Now, this is a park in the middle of South Seattle, not near water, not near any hills. Needless to say a bald eagle in our ‘hood was a surprise. What happened next nearly made us fall over.

As the eagle came toward us, it banked straight upward over our heads, closely followed by the crows, cawing madly. (There are two crow’s nests in this park and they’re already re-building for spring. Crow babies are an eagle snack favorite.)

As the eagle crested a big-leaf maple, it did a quick flip in the air and caught a crow in its talons, flipped back over and flew away. The crows got quiet fast, and disbursed quickly.

I thought about this amazing sight all day and shared it with several people. I found my storyline switching from one of sympathy for the crow to “if that crow hadn’t been trying to up the eagle’s…ahem…tail…it wouldn’t have gotten caught.”

So here’s the leadership lesson I took away:

If you’re chasing something bigger than you, make sure you’re ready for it. Do what you can to understand the nature of your target and get ready to be nimble if it starts to chase you back! And, if you’re feeling chased by worries, sometimes turning around and tackling one is the best approach.



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