Change Management – What is your Leadership Style?

Change Management – What is your Leadership Style?

Are you a jungle lion or a zoo lion when you are dealing with change? 

How do you react and adapt to change?  How will this knowledge help you to succeed in this ever changing business environment?

How  you anticipate and react to change and how you adapt to your environment is a key success factor in business today.  Today’s business environment is far from predictable, reliable or safe. It is ever-changing, growing and evolving – the only thing that is predictable is change.

Are you a jungle lion or a zoo lion?

Do you anticipate change and carve your own path like a jungle lion or are you hoping that things won’t change and happy to follow the path that is in front of you like a zoo lion?  This concept of a jungle lion or a zoo lion was introduced to me by a colleague. I was struggling in an organization wondering why I was so tired and why I felt like I was dragging people behind me toward a new vision. And he said “because you are a jungle lion working with a bunch of zoo lions!”

I was so intrigued by this concept that I asked him to explain further.  He said “a zoo lion is waiting to be fed and looking for predictable results – feed me the template, give me the answer, do what is proven, don’t take risk… ….and a jungle lion is not waiting…. they are evaluating their environment, carving new paths and finding new answers and taking risks….” He said “that jungle lions will notice if their food source is dwindling or if their environment is changing and find new sources of food, anticipate and adapt to the change in their environment…and if you are working with people who think and react differently to this change in environment it can be difficult because they may not see what you see, but also they may see things you don’t…..”

I thought his analogy was a powerful one because I immediately had images in my mind of these two different types of lions – Both leaders and both strong but living and surviving in very different environments.  It helped me to understand why I was feeling so challenged and why I felt so alone in my journey to achieve a new vision.  I‘d like to share this concept and the pros and cons of both lions and how we can learn and rely upon the strengths of the other so we can all see the change ahead and adapt accordingly.

What is a jungle lion?                                                                                               

Let’s think about a true jungle lion and its environment and what it has to do to survive. Kill or be killed is the rule of the jungle.  It doesn’t know where its next meal is coming from and it has to think of clever and new ways to survive.  There may be hungry times, it may not eat for a few days, but there is no doubt that it is the king of the jungle and has earned that respect.

So, if we think of the “jungle lion” in the work place…. Well a jungle lion has to fend for itself, assess risk, and the current environment.  The jungle lion relies  on its own judgment and instincts for survival. It carves its own path and challenges ideas and brings new ideas to the organization. It knows that in order to survive and thrive it needs to constantly be thinking – what is possible, what’s next, how can we take this to the next level. A jungle lion is not erratic, it is not unplanned – it knows its strengths, it watches and waits and assesses and it takes risks but they are calculated risks.

What do I mean by a zoo lion?

A zoo lion relies on others for survival, is fed on a schedule, and is kept safe from outside harm and lives in a predicable environment. It is still a formidable creature – can kill when it needs to kill, can roar with the best of them, and will continue to be the king of the cats and exert its authority.  But there is little risk that it has to contend with in this environment, so it learns to adapt and act like a lion, and always knowing it is going to get fed.

If we think figuratively about a “zoo lion” in the corporate work place, we can see a similar analogy.  A “zoo lion” has little risk in this environment – there are a set of rules to follow and everyone knows what those rules are and there is an order to things. People are clear about what is expected of them and can perform to those expectations.  They are not erratic; they follow a path that is proven and minimize risk.   They keep people and the business safe.

Which one are you?

A jungle lion or a zoo lion?  Is one better than the other?  Can they live together, work together? What happens when they lean on each other’s strengths?

Does an organization need and benefit from both types of lions?

Yes…. I think the zoo lions ground the organization and ensure that the jungle lions are not taking too big a risk.  They create the parameters and can be the protector of the environment. But they need to know when to let go of the reigns and let the jungle lion lead.  Like I said earlier they are both lions so this is not always easy.  But, if the zoo lion won’t let go of the reigns and let the jungle lion lead and bring innovation to the organization – they will burn out the jungle lion and the organization will lose its innovative edge.

How will this knowledge help you in business today?

So what does this all mean…Well one thing I think we can all agree upon is that today’s business world is a jungle – it is ever-changing, growing and evolving. It is far from predictable, reliable or safe.  Gone are the days of using past results to predict future behaviour, doing what’s proven, not innovating because of fear of failure, or worrying more about getting fired for doing something than being fired for doing nothing.

Understanding if you are a jungle lion or a zoo lion will help you to prepare for this ever-changing environment.  It also helps you to see your blind spots – what you cannot see because you favour one style over the other.   As a leader you have to be able to read the people and the environment around you.  So you can leverage the jungle lions and the zoo lions in your midst.

As a leader know who you are, know your blind spots and embrace both kinds of lions.  And if you are a jungle lion make sure you have a zoo lion on your team so they can make sure you are carving the best path possible toward success. And if you are a zoo lion don’t be afraid to follow a jungle lion out of the maze.  They will lead you to paths and help manage through significant change with great success.

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