The more I spend time with animals and Nature, the more I admire the sublime perfection of Evolution’s optimized economy. Nature never wastes a single impulse of energy. Every Natural phenomenon we take for granted is actually a masterful blow of targeted movement to keep pushing life forward. All animals enact this principle of optimized economy through apparently random instincts and impulses, except human beings. We seem to be the most uneconomic animals on the Planet. How so?
We seem to be the most uneconomic animals on the Planet.
Take CEOs, founders and business owners, for example. These people are supposed to be the smartest, most efficient specimens among us. I can affirm that in many ways they are. I watch them at work every day. There’s a dangerously generalized habit, however, that betrays humanity’s current misconceptions about leadership: paternal and maternal tendencies.
There’s a dangerously generalized habit, however, that betrays humanity’s current misconceptions about leadership: paternal and maternal tendencies.
Let’s get closer and look at Tim, who I’m going to make up for obvious reasons…executive coaches who betray their clients’ secrets don’t do well and shouldn’t be trusted with any actually interesting or useful details! So Tim is an invented CEO who has done very well in business. He started his own company twenty years ago and has successfully grown it to employ a large number of employees, expand into several countries and build an enviable and non-contested reputation in his industry.
I’m sure you know lots of Tims. Oh, yes. Of course. He is also handsome and proud to display pictures of a vomitively perfect family. Ha,ha,ha!! Anyway. Tim always looks like a million dollars. He is full of interesting ideas, actually implementing several of them through his own company and other non-profit entities or cross-industry teams. Like I said, Tim makes you want to vomit with his level of total multi-purpose efficiency. The only thing that stops you from dropping dead with envy, in fact, is that he keeps fidgeting with his cell phone and he has to get up several times during your meeting to go respond to an urgency.
Tim is far too necessary to be as perfect as he sounds because he is another paternal CEO. So in reality, Tim is kidding himself and everybody else in a society that no longer thinks economically. At least in Natural and animal terms. If we sat Tim in front of a horse, a dog, a dolphin or any ancient tribal leader, they would all react exactly the same way: laughing profusely at Tim’s simple but deadly mistake. It wouldn’t be a mean laugh. It would be the generous good humor of a savvy parent training his young apprentice to become as efficient and economic as survival in the wild demands. How so?
Our notions of economy are so completely off they are deadly
Very simple. Very economic, again. Tim’s mistake is to run after his teams like an insecure father or overprotective mother. Have you seen lots of human CEOs do this? Yes. It’s incredible. No wonder we’re wrecking the planet at super-effective speed. Our notions of economy are so completely off they are deadly: wasting the most important and expensive resource of the pack, its leader’s precious attention, on every little thing every moment of the day, makes the pack mortally vulnerable in every way. Plus Tim is chronically exhausted and out of breath, no matter how energetically he acts and how much he loves pleasing all his followers.
He has to jump and respond every time one of his very numerous crybaby or rebellious employees needs him to. Tim doesn’t move his pack members. His pack members move him. Tim can’t sit back and relax or think straight, and frankly, Tim’s strategic vision must be about as sound as that of any other scatter brain you cross on the street. Tim, like so many other high-level executives, does his thinking only when his main activity allows for it: cab rides, air planes, showers, babysitting at the park or beach, and other unspeakable moments like these.
He would only move when the entire pack, herd or company, was in serious danger or dire need of direction.
What would a horse do? What would Tim be like if he was truly economic in his leadership? He would only move when the entire pack, herd or company, was in serious danger or dire need of direction. And he would only apply the minimum amount of energy needed to communicate what he wanted from them. Tim really needs to see Lorca at play! Lorca is the mare in charge of the herd of horses at my ranch. These days she is easily found grazing on the field with other mares and their foals.
As I approach the fence to greet her and her year-old foal, they both come over to check me out. The foal is playful and full of beans. Lorca is slow, uninterested, but still acknowledging my presence. Another mare moves towards us to join in the fun and Lorca, gradually and with minimal energy, looks back and bites her neck. The mare retreats out of reach. Every horse on the field is looking at Lorca’s movements, in fact. Even if they look like they are only grazing or minding their own business. All eyes are on the leader. A little while later the same mare takes a small step in our direction from about four or five meters away.
Lorca doesn’t look up. She doesn’t stop lazily grazing. All she does is lift her back leg about three centimeters from the floor. To a gravely distracted and economically ignorant person like Tim, this leg movement is random and means nothing. But to all the very wise horses around us, it is clear that Lorca is being frightfully direct about what she wants from us all. With a minuscule shift in posture she lets everybody know what they have to do, where they are expected to move to, and how they need to behave in order to guarantee the herds’ safety and fun. This, my friends, is economic leadership at play. This is the wisdom of the Wild I so admire.
Every team member looks at you more than you look at them, and they all move according to you instead of you moving to follow or mobilize them.
The key is, once again, amazingly simple to understand with your head, and incredibly hard to materialize with your body: every team member looks at you more than you look at them, and they all move according to you instead of you moving to follow or mobilize them. Lorca’s human version is the kind of graceful, wise leader who makes you feel like nothing and nobody is more important to her than you, right here, right now. Because she knows that her entire pack is under control.
She knows that all her employees and partners are looking at her, waiting for her instructions, and informing her of things only as needed. They too learn from her the importance of being economic with emails, phone calls, whatspp messages and other communication channels. Can you do this? If you can, the world is at your feet and you are a walking example of economic, mindful and charismatic leadership. But if you can’t, don’t despair. Take a deep breath. Laugh at how you betrayed yourself again in an excessive response or an insufficient gesture, and analyze what still makes your body disobey your mind’s intention. And then try again.
Like a loving mother, Nature is ready to die at our hands if her last breath of air is spent to make us learn our lesson: the economy of life.
Horses, dogs, dolphins, and ancient tribal ancestors are watching you and I try and try again with a loving smile on their faces. Nature in all its mesmerizing shapes and forms is patiently teaching us humans to stop wasting energy and other precious resources. Like a loving mother, Nature is ready to die at our hands if her last breath of air is spent to make us learn our lesson: the economy of life.