Wild Leadership – Learning from Manatees

what can manatees teach leaders?

Now that spring is upon us, who doesn’t want to think about the ocean air and sandy beaches along Florida’s coast?! But don’t’ forget about the intercoastal and springs! Our team has paddled quite a bit recently with the warmer weather. And, manatees are on our minds.

Manatees live in the In-between

Manatees are pretty cool because they spend a lot of their lives in the in-between. What do I mean by that? Think about the difference in the saltwater environments and freshwater areas. The manatee is an example of a mammal who can self-regulate their salt concentration. They are able to balance the salt in their bodies relative to the ecosystem they call home for the time.

  • What in-between are you living in as a leader? 
  • How do you self-regulate your thinking/actions/behaviors in different environments?
  • What is balance to you; and, how do you create balance in your life? 

Manatees know their boundaries

Like many animals, they move and migrate with the weather. For their own wellbeing, manatees really need to stick to waters that are warmer than 60 degrees. That may be shocking! We often think that manatees are big – even fat – creatures. Well, really their size is due to a large stomach and intestines – not necessarily body fat! As waters cool yearly, they move to warm environments. One of the natural causes of death for manatees is cold stress – so knowing their boundaries and moving to warmer environments is essential to the lengthy lifespan.

  • Have you established boundaries for yourself as a leader? 
  • Do you successfully hold yourself to those boundaries? 
  • How often do you change environments in order to honor your boundaries? 

Manatees take action when the season changes

Often manatees are associated with Florida – for the warm weather and warm water. Though many manatees “winter” in Florida – call them snowbirds if you will. Throughout the rest of the years, manatees can be found in Georgia all the way up to Massachusetts. As their environment shifts as the season changes, they actively move to a new environment to continue living. 

  • Are you in the right ‘location’ for this ‘season’ of your life? 
  • Do you need to migrate to a new location for the current season?
  • How are you honoring your needs within your current context? 


  • Smithsonian Magazine – link
  • Save the Manatee – link
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission – link
  • Photo by NOAA on Unsplash