Who Do We Follow?

Leadership lessons from Harry the squirrel.

We name our squirrels. Harry Peanut is a young gray squirrel with a bounce in her step and a very distinctive way of approaching and eating the peanuts we leave out for her.

But most importantly, she is a wise and effective leader.

Every day I watch Harry climb the dogwood tree in our front yard and then fly through the air to catch a tiny branch of the maple tree, sometimes hanging upside down for a few seconds, before running through the tree to her next destination.

But she is not doing it alone. She is showing others how to do it. Young squirrels follow her up the tree to watch her make that leap. One black squirrel, we named Crazy Tail because her tail is red, observed Harry, and then turned around and ran back down the dogwood tree.

You could almost hear her say, “No. Too scary.”

But Harry sat waiting on the tiny branch, until Crazy Tail went back up the dogwood, and made the leap. Sometimes a squirrel will not do exactly what Harry showed them how to do, and I have gasped out loud more than once as they leap from a different place and barely catch the branch on the maple. But Harry always demonstrates, waits, and if necessary, shows it again.

Harry is also the squirrel that taught all the squirrels and birds who normally don’t eat peanuts that peanuts are good to eat. Before Harry, they ignored peanuts. Now besides squirrels there are cardinals, nuthatches, woodpeckers, titmice, and of course bluejays enjoying them.

One squirrel, a leader, a teacher, has changed the community. Harry teaches using all the excellent qualities of a leader, and it is a wise squirrel or bird that follows her.

Who do we follow?

Did you know that some people, even some scientists, believe that the negative is more powerful than the positive?

This is so ludicrous to me I wanted to ignore it. But we can’t. Because the reason they believe that is because of what we do out of habit. We repeat the negative, pay more attention to what doesn’t work, read, listen, and gossip about the negative.

When we do this, we are both leading and following the wrong thing. It’s not wise or safe.

Who do we listen to?

A related study has shown that it takes four “good” things to negate one negative thing. Good lord. We have some catching up to do. No wonder these observers think the negative has more power.

As we work with our newly structured life, we have a chance to make alternative choices. We must be sure we are leading and following wisely. Follow what is working. Follow the good, wise, and kind people. Remember four to one.

Although change upsets the normal, and sometimes that is hard, change is always happening. Sometimes those changes are more significant than others. At those times, we have the bigger task of noticing and living and sharing what is good about it.

It takes creative thinking. It takes curiosity and willingness.

But hey, if a squirrel named Harry Peanut can change an entire squirrel communities’ idea about what is good to eat, and how to leap safely, then we can do the same within our own big or small communities.

We need to pay attention not only to how we lead and teach but who we follow. Because some people who claim to be leaders are not leading wisely.

How can we tell who to follow?

We can look for the qualities they demonstrate and the actions they take to lead.

Are they kind, truthful, act with integrity and concern for others first?
Do they lead from unity and diversity? Or do they create separation and sameness?
Do they lead with courage and patience?
Are they flexible and willing to listen to the guidance of others?
Do they admit their mistakes, or do they blame others?

We are wise enough to sift through misinformation to discover the truth about the people we choose to follow as we leap from one way of life to another.

And we are wise enough to choose to be that kind of leader because even if you think no one is following you, someone is.

We can choose to follow the Harrys of life, and we can lead the same way.

The picture is my view of the dogwood and maple on a foggy spring morning.

This is a very interesting podcast about leadership and following. Click here to listen to What We Lose When We Assume People Are Bad

Originally published at https://www.becalewis.com on May 25, 2020.



Shifting Stories. Writing Stories. #author, #coach #podcaster #shiftthestory

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Beca Lewis

Shifting Stories. Writing Stories. #author, #coach #podcaster #shiftthestory