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Leadership Lessons Learned From Nature

There are incredible lessons you can learn from nature if you can get out among the trees and animals. This is especially true for leadership. Observing our ecosystem reveals many themes. As we look at the natural world, resilience, patience, connection, unpredictability, and flexibility become apparent. This is also true at work.


Those who lead effectively know the importance of connection, the power of resiliency, the value of flexibility, and the importance of leading through change. Here are some lessons leaders can learn from nature.



1. Interconnection Is Important


We often think of nature as something different from ourselves. But that's not the case. We are one and the same, and the more time you spend with nature, the more in tune you will be with the whole ecosystem.


I have seen leaders develop in this way in my work. A leader bought a vineyard and gradually began spending more time outdoors. He learned how the vines grow and how to nurture them. As a result, he gained a solid understanding of soil, as well as the relationship between soil and successful vintages. His team found these lessons quite helpful. No two vines are the same, just as no two employees are the same.


Being in tune with your horse is essential to being a successful horse rider. The same holds true for leadership. You need to be in tune with your team if you want to gallop. Connecting with nature allows you to think in systems. Understanding that you are not in control of the system, but rather a part of it - part of a process and part of evolution - can bring immense clarity to a leader. By seeing the forest instead of just trees, you will truly comprehend how systems work. Leadership is often focused on individual trees, but understanding the forest (the system) is just as critical.


2. Finding Resilience In The Chaos

Understanding the system and your part in it builds resilience. If something doesn't turn out according to plan, rather than reacting, you can take a step back and gain more insight. You don't look for causes or blame others. You look at how the system is functioning and fix it accordingly. Nature is more adaptive in this way. Instead of intervening and changing a system, you adapt to its needs. Leadership is about supporting the system's evolution, not controlling it.


Organizations that grow and do this well are those that recognize the mechanisms that allow evolution. Leaders who engage in nature see themselves as part of a system, as opposed to leaders who follow a hierarchy.

You quickly discover that nature likes a mess, and nothing can control it. Gardeners know this well. There is no way to avoid weeds. Sometimes, things don't work out as planned. Leaders need to understand this, too. This mindset leads to resilience. Things will unfold unpredictably, but failures aren't failures. Failures are part of the experiment and part of the learning process.


3. Ecosystems that are self-willed

Nature also teaches us that we cannot force it. We cannot plant whatever we want and expect it to grow. Our plants need a conducive environment to grow.


When you foster an environment that encourages self-direction, people will thrive and develop. There may be short-term success as a leader who controls and enforces things, but it isn't as successful as enabling others to connect and self-lead. Create an environment where people can thrive. As a leader, taking it all on isn't helpful or productive. Create an ecosystem that works well for the organization instead.


By combining these three truths - interconnection, systems-thinking, and resilience - you create the foundation for effective leadership. When you see the world as an extension of nature, you're better prepared to lead to success.