Wild Leadership: Learning from Cheetahs

What leadership lessons can we learn from the wild?

I’ve always been fascinated by wild animals. I firmly believe that both nature and animals can teach people so many lessons, provide messages, and offer leadership in ways human might not initially imagine.

Have you thought about what cheetahs can teach us?

If you follow book releases, then I’m sure you didn’t walk away from 2020 without hearing of Glennon Doyle’s book, Untamed. In Untamed, she offers a fantastic analogy of a cheetah in captivity, named Tabitha. It’s such a powerful analogy. I recommend watching this 5 minute video where Doyle recounts Tabitha’s story.

A What of Cheetahs?

The coalition is a term that is often associated with political groups, joint-task force, or even universities. Usually, there is a directive or specific purpose for the group convening.

Interestingly enough, diving into this word further, the coalition is the term scientists use to describe a relatively small group of cheetahs. The cheetahs bond so closely together; they genuinely are siblings.

What if we viewed our Team as a coalition of cheetahs?

How might being a team bonded and united – even a tight-knit community – transform how we work, communicate, and collaborate? Now, no analogy is 100% complete – but indulge me for a moment.

The Strengths of Cheetahs

Cheetahs are social animals.

They are known for their ability to separate geographically from each other and then reunite again using their senses, navigation skills, and survival strategies.

Cheetahs have a lot of muscle!

Physically speaking, the main muscles of a cheetah are the locomotor muscles. The locomotor muscles, in particular, include their limb and back muscles. Do you have any idea the percent of body mass these muscles represent? 40-50%! The average body weight ranges between 33kg to 53kg depending on the cheetah’s environment. We are talking anywhere from 13 to 27 kg of locomotor muscle! These muscles are critical for speed, power, acceleration, and deceleration in the wild.

Did you know cheetahs chirp?

Let’s think about lions for a moment. Lions are known for their boisterous roar and can travel up to 4km. In contrast, cheetahs chirp and are lucky to move a few hundred meters. Cheetahs rely on navigating when in the wild. Research shows us that cheetahs navigate using their egocentrical abilities to track movements and their geocentrical abilities to understand positional data such as landmarks and smells.

So, back to the coalition analogy. 

In a coalition, each cheetah uses its skills to thrive while still being a vital part of their bonded group. Now, let’s consider this for professional settings. Cheetahs use their skills and ability as part of the coalition to ensure the coalition thrives. For many people, work is essential to their survival in the modern world. Often, people work to survive – pay for food, transportation, housing, etc. Sure, those higher up in the socio-economic ranks afford luxuries of entertainment, travel, spending (but that’s a topic for a different article).

When was the last time you considered your colleagues and work team to be on a united front? Probability wise, it’s likely been a while. How might encouraging the individuals in your coalition to use their strengths support and ensure greater thriving in the year to come?

What about your organization?