Eagle, Duck, Turkey, or Vulture – How Do You Fly as a Leader?

Leaders come in several types of feathers.  

Ducks are cute but paddle around in circles, turkeys don’t fly so good, and vultures are hated. 

Eagles, on the other hand, fly high.

It’s how it is. A few leaders are like eagles – soaring and inspirational. Many are like ducks – benign, likable, appear calm on the surface but are paddling like hell under the surface to survive. Some (unfortunately too large a group) are the turkeys – clueless and gobbling a lot. And then there are the vultures who only serve themselves and can do a lot of damage.  

Given these birds, it’s no wonder that the most common reason people leave their job is because of their immediate boss.  

Not enough eagles!

How do you think your people would describe you – which bird would they assign to you?      And why? What actions on your part qualify you to be that bird?

Unfortunately, based on the odds, you are likely to be a duck or a turkey. Sad, but true.  

Fortunately, nobody is all one kind of bird – we are a combination of all four depending on the circumstances.  We can develop the more desirable traits and let go of the negative ones.

So, there is good news. Ducks and turkeys can become eagles. (Rarely, if ever, do vultures morph into anything better.) It will take some work, but here are the steps toward becoming an eagle:

  • Decide you want to be an eagle. It all starts with a clear decision that you want to be a more effective, inspiring leader – the type people admire and want to follow.
  • Get some feedback. How are you viewed? In what ways are you seen as an eagle and in what ways are you a duck? It’s very helpful to find someone who is willing to hold up a mirror for you.
  • Get a mentor / support. Find an eagle, someone you and others respect and admire. Observe them and learn from them.
  • Practice, practice, practice. As a leader you will always be learning, growing and working on something. Expect to always be improving your flying skills.
  • Pick one thing to work on. Don’t approach this globally. Break it down and take bite-sized action.

Action Step:  What is one thing you could do that will help you fly higher – what will make you a better leader? Do that thing today.  

Get started now – and soar!

Learning 3D Chess

Early in my career I had a sales manager named John who was a brilliant coach and developer of talent. There were eight of us who worked for him in a regional office of a global company. 

I recall the first time I was scheduled to present a proposal to a new client.  John said, “Before you go, run your presentation by me.” My reaction was similar to when my grade school teacher, Sister Mary Joseph, took my term paper in one hand, a red marker in the other hand and began to edit brutally. Instead, when I ran my presentation and sales materials by John, he was calm, looked interested, and appeared distinctly “non-nunnish.”

When I finished, John pointed out a couple of things he thought I did particularly well –

  • how I constructed the flow of the presentation to lead the prospect down a logical and persuasive path
  • and how all of it was clear and concise.

He then said words that I would hear from him every time I ran things by him – “What would you say if…” For example:

  • “What would you say if the prospect was only concerned about price and not quality?”
  • or, “What would you say and do if you realized that the person you are presenting to isn’t the decider but just a screener?”

There were many variations on the question, but every time he would ask, it caused me to step back and look at the situation either more broadly or in more depth. 

I figured this was a game called – “craft the perfect presentation that is so good John will have no questions.” Of course, in my youthful naivete I didn’t realize John would always have a stretching question to ask no matter how well I prepared. He would ask increasingly sophisticated questions that forced the whole team to think and anticipate every possibility that might occur in our presentations. He was teaching us critical and strategic thinking. Like learning 3D chess.

The result of his questions and coaching techniques was we became the most successful sales team in the entire global organization. Our closing rate was stellar. The odds were almost certain that if we got in front of a client and made a presentation we would get the business. 

John went on to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. And five of the eight of us on the team became CEOs, C-Suite execs, and/or business owners. 

At the time I didn’t realize it, but John’s coaching style and his commitment to bring the best out of us was a lifelong gift that would pay dividends repeatedly.  

Thanks, John.

Action Step:  What can you do today to stretch and grow someone?

Which of These Timeless Mistakes Do You Make?

Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman statesman, orator, lawyer, and philosopher who died in 43 BC in the time of Julius Caesar.  Cicero famously recorded what he saw were the six most troublesome mistakes made by humans.

  • 1
    The delusion that individual advancement is made by crushing others
  • 2
    The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed
  • 3
    Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot do it ourselves
  • 4
    Refusing to set aside trivial preferences
  • 5
    Neglecting development and refinement of the mind, and not acquiring the habits of reading and study
  • 6
    Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do

Some things never change!!

Action Step: Which of these six mistakes stands out for you personally?  Which apply to your team?  Do something today to turn the mistake into a strength.