What can a jungle story teach us about leadership?

Leadership is one of these words which, when you ask someone to define it, you usually get a vague answer or a platitude.

This is because people feel what Leadership is when it is present but otherwise, they find it very hard to describe it in words.

In such complex subjects I have found that storytelling has much to offer.

Drriss & Marrionn

A compelling story about leadership comes from Stephen covey’s classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

If you have not read the book, it certainly has much to offer. If you have read the book, I am sure you will enjoy remembering this excerpt as much as I do.

STEPHEN COVEY ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT

The story goes like this:

You can quickly grasp the important difference between the two if you envision a group of producers cutting their way trough the jungle with machetes. They’re the producers, the problem solvers. They’re cutting through the undergrowth, clearing it out.

The managers are behind them, sharpening their machetes, writing policy and procedure manuals, holding muscle development programs, bringing in improved technologies and setting up working schedules and compensation programs for machete wielders.

The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, “Wrong jungle!”

But how do the busy, efficient producers and managers often respond? “Shut up! We’re making progress.”


I find this an excellent example of what the difference of management and leadership is all about. The story is both thought-provoking and self-explanatory.

So, next time anyone asks you “how would you describe leadership” maybe you can tell them a jungle story about the leader that both knew where the team was supposed to be and had the courage to cry “Wrong jungle!”

What is your leadership story?

[Image courtesy of Drriss & Marrionn / www.flickr.com]

About George Vrakas
George Vrakas (MBA, CCMP, CMILT) is highly reputed in the field of services procurement and logistics and has presented on topics such as, Globalisation, Services Procurement, Leadership, Continuous Improvement and Personal Productivity at various venues and Universities in Melbourne. He has also been the host at industry events and published articles on Procurement and Contract Management at various online publications. George was a Board member of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport Australia (CILT Australia) from 2011 until 2016 and also a member of the International Association for Contract & Commercial Management (IACCM). George holds an MBA from Victoria University specializing in International Supply Chain Management and Applied Economics, he is also a certified Commercial Contract Management Practitioner (CCMP), a Green Belt Lean Six Sigma expert and holds a Lloyd's Maritime Academy certificate in KPIs for Ports and Terminals. He also holds certification on variety of topics primarily relating to Contract Management, Negotiations, International Regulations, Problem Solving and Change Management.

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