There’s usually a pecking order in the animal kingdom. There are queen bees, alpha gorillas, and male-female wolf pairs that dominate the pack. Humans are no different.
This may come as a shock, but organizational constructs like tribes, societies, and companies are not the result of high-level intelligence but of primitive survival impulses reinforced by neurotransmitters in the brain’s ancient limbic system.
To say that leadership and organizational behavior has been successful in the animal kingdom is a gross understatement. The planet is fully populated by millions of animal species that all exhibit the same sort of behavior.
The point is, leadership is not so much a thought process as it is instinctive behavior. It’s evolutionary. It’s to a great extent responsible for our survival on earth. And that’s why we do it. As survival imperatives go, it’s right up there with eating and breeding. No kidding.
So when I say, “Leaders lead. Followers follow. You can’t do both,” in my upcoming book, Real Leaders Don’t Follow, I’m not making this stuff up. It’s biology. Granted, you can behave any way you like by overriding your survival instincts, but neither you nor I get to change how the species behaves. Evolution’s got that covered.
I know you didn’t click on the headline to get a biology lesson, but it’s important to understand that leadership is not really about traits or habits. It’s primarily a behavioral phenomenon. So let’s be practical for a moment and discuss the sort of behavior we consistently value in our most cherished leaders.
Apple CEO Tim Cook credits the company’s success in no small part to Steve Jobs’s role as a teacher. The way Apple’s unique culture continues to flourish and scale, even as the company grows to enormous size and valuation, is a testament to the way Jobs taught his team what matters most, so they could teach their teams, and so on.
If they hear you, they will listen.
Whether it’s politics, business, or non-profit, there are great demands on leaders’ time. That comes with the territory. So there are physical, organizational, and mental barriers they put up to block out the noise. Nevertheless, their success depends on being open to new and different perspectives. So, if they hear you, they will listen.