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  • Writer's pictureDr. Neal Nybo

2 big LEADERSHIP LESSONS from an Orangutan and Rottweiler

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew tore through Florida. Its destruction included most of a Miami tourist attraction called Monkey Jungle. There were monkeys running everywhere.

One news crew went to film a street that was like a ghost town. There was no one around and the streets were empty. The camera was panning back up the long block when, there in the middle of the street, came a lumbering orangutan.

Just as he passed the camera, a huge Rottweiler dog came charging out of a yard, straight for the Orangutan. The dog was barking ferociously.

This 150 pound Rottweiler did that, barking terribly and launched itself at that orangutan at full speed. I braced for a terrible fight. I was terrified I was about to see that ape ripped apart but that orangutan never slowed down, never even looked at the dog.

Without breaking its stride or changing its arm swing, that ape caught that dog across its face with the back of its hand. The dog flipped head over heels and landed, stunned, while the orangutan never looked back.

Leadership Lesson #1

Restrain Your Orangutan.

The power in that ape to drop that dog was stunning. But, it is nothing compared to the power you and I wield to stop another person dead in their tracks with just a word, especially the people who mean the most to us. Do you realize how powerful you are?

Our friends and co-workers would respond to supportive and encouraging words and actions like starving people to food. Yet, with our big orangutan arms, we can smack someone with words or actions without even noticing.

Have you ever said or thought “what did I say?” when a loved one storms out of the room or gives you a look that could kill or hangs up the phone? Your orangutan was showing!

We can restrain the orangutan by realizing how powerful we actually are to heal or hurt, to help or hinder. Once we understand that, we can ask God to help us restrain those urges in us to fight and defend. We can’t actually consistently restrain our unconscious behaviors. But, we can live by the Spirit and eagerly wait for, and want, the goodness of God in our lives.

In order to restrain the orangutan, we can begin to ask ourselves the question,

Will the other person feel appreciated by my words or action?

The question is not how do we feel but how will others feel. Just taking time to ask ourselves this question can keep us from unconsciously swiping at others.

Leadership Lesson # 2

Not everything is a Rottweiler.

Not everything is a threat. Not every news item on our phone or issue in the office deserves our fight response. Not every affront deserves a reaction. Not every conflicting opinion requires an email or a tweet. Not everything and everyone is a Rottweiler.

One person I respect once said he was practicing the disciple of not having the last word. He didn’t have to act as if he needed to defend himself. When we take time to realize that not everything and everyone is a Rottweiler,

we can ask ourselves a question that goes to our own heart and soul, our own motivation.

Is doing or saying this more important than appreciating this person?

Is it so important that I get my way or defend my belief, or I present myself in the best light, or even, I get a laugh, that I am willing to smack this other person or at least I’m willing not to value them in the moment?

You know the saying, when your only tool is a hammer everything looks like a nail? In this case, when your only reaction is to swing defensively, everything looks like a Rottweiler. When we pause and recognize that we don’t have to be so defensive, we can ask ourselves this challenging question, is doing or saying this more important than appreciating this person?

Next time you see something that looks like a threat, restrain your orangutan long enough to see remind yourself, not everything is a Rottweiler. Maybe you can demonstrate appreciation and raise your leadership quotient just a bit.

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