Courage: It’s What Lions Do
As I sat transfixed during the 2019 Super Bowl, a teaser trailer for Disney’s live action version of The Lion King, released this July, premiered. I absolutely love this wonderful story and find many implications for “real-world” leadership. Allow me to share some of my favorite Mufasa quotes as they relate to my understanding of leadership at Andesa Services. (Note: Please read these quotes in your best James Earl Jones voice.)
“Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.”
My children will attest that “balance” is the word I most often used to describe life. I often describe the Andesa ecosystem as this special relationship of systems, services, employees and clients. These relationships constantly feed and build on each other. In this ecosystem, each participant is strengthened and can grow to reach their full potential. We desire an employee-ownership culture which contributes to strong client relationships and retention. We desire a committed and engaged client base which contributes to the ecosystem as they seek to advance their own business goals and entrust Andesa with the confidence and collaboration necessary to achieve a better, stronger whole.
This delicate balance only works because each participant contributes to make the system stronger. The system is held together by close links of trust and respect for all in the ecosystem. Mufasa’s wisdom reminds us as leaders to treat all members of the ecosystem with “balance and respect” which will help your company flourish.
“A king’s time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. One day, Simba, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king.”
The best systems are the ones which are simplest and least sophisticated. One of the primary responsibilities of leadership is to build a guiding coalition of influential team members who can influence others.
Patrick Lencioni in The Advantage probably put it best, “An organization has to institutionalize its culture without bureaucratizing it.” The leader thus bears the responsibility of building a team who fully share the organization’s convictions and vision. This doesn’t simply happen but requires constant coaching, reinforcement, story-telling, and application of organizational values. Mufasa provides an excellent example of this “legacy-leadership” in the relationship he shares with Simba.
It is an important responsibility of leadership to preserve the values, culture and legacy of the organization. John Walker, Andesa’s founder, provided us a book about the “people-first culture” in his writing of Value from Values: The Making of Andesa Services. Our Andesa Forever vision statement and strategic plan prompt us as leaders to preserve our vision and values. It is a reminder that the seeds we plant today may blossom and bear much fruit for decades, perhaps even centuries to come.
“That hairball is my son. And your future king.” – to Scar
Scar: Sarabi!!! Scar: Sarabi! Sarabi: Yes, Scar?
Scar: Where is your hunting party? They are not doing their jobs.
Sarabi: Scar, there is no food. The herds have moved on.
Scar: NO, you are just not looking hard enough!
Sarabi: It’s over. There is nothing left. We have only one choice, we must leave Pride Rock
Scar: We are not going anywhere!
The differences between Mufasa and Scar provides a tremendous contrast of leadership styles. Scar seems to be under the impression that the animals of Pride Rock will be his loyal followers once he becomes the next king – in essence, he demands respect from title as compared to earning respect through actions. He is power-hungry and motivates his kingdom through fear. It is a leader-first, top-down, command-and-control model. A classic example is when he summons Sarabi to him, demands results, blames the team and then ignores the advice of those closest to the work.
By comparison, Mufasa has created a safe and supportive, dare I say, “balanced” kingdom. As leader, he is responsible for governing the day-to-day operation of the Pride Lands. However, he has created an environment of shared responsibility with the other animals – a “Circle of Life” partnership, if you will. The leadership role becomes one of support, coaching, guidance and decision-making that impacts the culture and preserves the delicate ecosystem balance. We see many examples of servant-leadership in Mufasa’s kingdom and also at Andesa, where our journey to an employee-owned company demands leaders with a people-first persuasion.
“I’m only brave when I have to be. Simba, being brave doesn’t mean you go looking for trouble.”
A quick Google image search on courage will reveal lion photos within the first ten search results. The legendary depiction of the lion as a symbol of courage is what makes L. Frank Baum’s depiction of the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz such an effective oxymoron.
The business world places incredible demands on those who choose to play the long game – in other words, it’s a jungle out there. It is no accident that Mufasa instructs young Simba about bravery and courage – it’s what lions do. As leaders, we must lead with values, then instill and reinforce those values to the next generation.
One of Andesa’s core values is Courage. This may seem a bit strange to include in an organization’s values, but for us it means we must not hesitate to embrace change, to lead boldly and act decisively. It is a sense of inner strength, a willingness to stand up for what is right, to go down new roads and take on new challenges. It is action not in the absence of fear, but despite it.
During my tenure at Andesa, I’ve watched many of Andesa’s employee-owners embrace our values and culture. I have noticed how courage, when combined with our other core values of integrity, honesty, respect, responsibility and initiative, upgrades our performance and helps individuals grow in their careers and personal life.
I am always on the lookout for leadership lessons and eagerly await the live action version of The Lion King. I sincerely hope you enjoy the remake of this Disney classic.
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