Leadership Lessons Of The Osprey

osprey

Living on the Back Bay provides a daily show of natural marvels. One I enjoy most is watching the fish jump into the air and birds dive into the water.

Quite the paradox.

The fish lives in the water but in order to capture the choice reward (bug) floating on the top, it ventures into another atmosphere. Likewise the bird, built to soar in the air, will venture into the atmosphere of water to capture its choice reward (fish).

Each is wired genetically to briefly leave its natural environment for another – one that, if there long enough, is deadly.

Yet, they do it.

My favorite bird to watch is the Osprey. While this bird generally doesn’t completely submerse in water for very long, as many water fowl do, it is the only carnivorous raptor that eats almost exclusively fish. We have a few ospreys that migrate here each year and always put on quite a show, especially when there are new fledglings.

The learning curve for the fledglings is steep. Over the [first few] months they will not only have to master flying, but catching fish before launching themselves off on migrations of thousands of miles. Some of the young will get the hang of it quicker than others. Some won’t really get the hang of it at all, and those birds won’t be around long. (ospreyworld.com)

So what do I learn from ospreys?

1. Leaders see things differently.

If you have ever tried to spear a fish from above the water you understand what an optical illusion size and location can be. Just holding a stick in the water, one can see how the image bends. One advantage that Ospreys have is their brain’s capacity to adjust their eyesight to accommodate the light refraction – that phenomenon that makes something under water appear larger and off center. This natural ability is perfected through trial-and-error. While they have a unique ability to see things differently, that ability is fine-tuned through experience. Like the osprey, leaders learn that when looking into a hostile environment, things are not always as they may seem to others. They learn to overcome the challenge of a distorted version of reality.

2. Leaders can’t stay in their comfort zone.

The choice reward lies outside the comfort zone. Both the fish and birds are genetically predisposed to breach atmospheric barriers, but they learn to get better at it over time. Leaders, like Ospreys, simply are not content with what lies within their comfort zone. They would sooner starve than settle for that which is within easy grasp. They are wired differently. They are wired for challenge. They are wired to grasp the choice reward that lies outside of their comfort zone.

Perhaps ospreys are among my favorite birds because they remind me so much of the great leaders I know. They see things differently than others; and they would die if they couldn’t leave their comfort zone.

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