flowing motion

3 must-knows of leadership that I learned from Gerald Durrell

Posted on: September 6, 2009

Durrell in his final years, with Cottontop Tamarin
Image via Wikipedia

In My Friends and Other Animals, 10 year old Gerald Durrell taught me the most important trick of leadership.

He wrote a list of everything he wanted for his birthday, divided it up, and sent everyone to their favorite shops – his sister to buy cotton wool and pins for his butterfly collection, his author brother to a book shop, and his outdoorsy brother for supplies like formalin.

In all the years that I have spent teaching and consulting, I don’t think I have come across a better description of leadership.

There are three questions to remember about leadership.  That’s all, three questions

1 What brings us alive?

What lifts my soul? And what lifts the spirits of my companions?

What do they like to do, and what brings the light to their eyes?

2 What excites me about my companions?

What do I find fantastically good about the people I am with?

What do they do with ease and grace?  What do I love to watch?  What do I think they do magnificently well?

What brings out my smile and an impulse to applaud?

Even when they have been irritating me horribly, I must bring myself back to their story and their attributes that bring so much pleasure and opportunity to my life.

What makes me want to clap my hands in pleasure?  What can I say about this person to someone else?

What am I so confident that they will do so well because they always have.

3 Is this collective project sufficiently important for me to give it my full attention?

Will I be watching as events unfold?  Do I care enough – or was I just ranting?

And what will be watching? Can I play it through in detail in my mind and will it hold my attention as events unfold?

What information can I pass on to each person that will help them do better what they do so well?  How can I keep the light in our eyes?

Is this the most important project for me right now?

“. . . this is all, this is perfect, this is it . . .”

Does my project raise my compassion and my ease with the world?

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