Wild Leadership – Learning from Dolphins

what can dolphins teach leaders?

Name one thing that was cool in 1500 BC that is cool today.

Dolphins. Yes, dolphins are the answer (well, there could be more answers). Let’s journey back to 1500 BC for a second. Guess what?! Researchers have evidence that even in 1500 BC, dolphins were pretty cool! The Dolphin Research Center shares that “Pictures of dolphins appeared in art forms as early as 1500 BC, and even the great Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) told stories of dolphins interacting with people and described them as mammals. Our fascination with dolphins continues today, and is evident in the work of many modern artists.” So now is the appropriate time to ask, What kind of leadership lessons can we learn from dolphins? 

Relational & Adaptable 

The World Wildlife Fund finds that, “There are 36 species of marine dolphins – living in nearly all aquatic environments, including oceans, coastal, estuarine and freshwater – and in temperatures ranging from less than 0°C [32°F] to more than 30°C [86°F].” Dolphins are also very social animals, and they live and travel in groups – these groups called pods! In the wild, National Graphic finds that Bottlenose Dolphins easily live 45 to 50 years in the wild! Dolphins are highly relational with each other, and the species overall can adapt in various environments (back to the whole idea of saltwater and freshwater)!

  • Identify 2 -3 words to describe your way of being

Echolocation Superpower

Dolphins use what scientists call echolocation to survive. Echolocation helps as they travel (navigate their ecosystem), eat (hunt for their next meal), chat with each other (communicate for survival), and more. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation explains that Dolphins “emit sound waves and then detect and interpret the echoes that bounce back off of other creatures and objects in the water around them, allowing them to build up a picture of their surroundings. Dolphins hunt using their highly-developed echolocation, which means they can find food no matter how murky the water might be. Not only that, but they can even use it to identify any prey that might be hiding, such as under the sand!” Now that sounds like a fantastic superpower!

  • What’s your superpower? 

A significant threat to dolphins

In researching Dolphins, I was reminded of how amazing dolphins are and the harm and threat they experience on a regular basis. The World Wildlife Fund shines a light on a real danger that dolphins face in their varied environments: noise pollution. “Noise pollution from naval activity, the oil and gas industry, seismic surveys and underwater construction can stress and injure cetaceans. It also severely interferes with their ability to communicate, reproduce, navigate and find prey – sometimes proving fatal.” In an environment where noise pollution is prevalent, the dolphin is unable to leverage their superpower successfully. In this polluted environment, the issue is not the dolphin or the dolphin’s ability to use their superpower – the problem is the pollution (noise pollution in this example)! The problem is the polluter.

When I started my research for this article – finding leadership principles we can learn from dolphins – I had no idea about noise pollution. But, as I learned more, I started to reflect on my previous work environments. Environments where my superpowers could not shine due to pollution! I invite you to spend 10-15 minutes reflecting on past work environments and even your current work environment.

  • What threats are you experiencing in your environment?
  • What steps do you need to take to remove yourself from polluted environments in your life?