Let’s face it, leadership is a funny thing. Many say it is an innate skill, one you are born with, while others attempt to find ways to teach leadership. For the last 16 years, I have been a falconer. A falconer is an individual who, often because of his passion, takes a bird of prey, trains it to accept a hunting partnership, and returns to the field with that bird to hunt wild game.
How can falconry be related to leadership? Consider the first phrase in the definition above. “A falconer is an individual who, often out of passion.” If managers are going to exhibit leadership, they must first have passion. Leading others is often a daunting task, and if as a leader you are not fully committed to an outcome, your ability to take others with you will be hindered.
A key element of leadership is the ability to help those whom report to you, and those to whom you report, excel. Excellence, vision, rapport and compassion are all skills necessary to succeed as a leader. If passion is missing so is the ability to lead. Helping those who report to you excel, takes the same vision a falconer needs to train a newly trapped bird.
Imagine taking a hawk or falcon, a bird which by its very nature is scared of humans, following a set plan of action, and eventually releasing it to fly free, pursue game and return to you at the end of a hunt. A true leader holds a similar vision, to create an environment which allows employees to perform, but at the end of the day are still accountable for their successes or failures.
As leader, or a student of leadership, it is key to remember that both passion and skill is at the root of the ability to lead. We can talk about a falconer’s passion, but passion never supersedes skill. If training skills are lacking, on the day that bird is released and flown free, it simply won’t return. Leadership is similar, if the keystone skills of leadership are missing, passion alone will not suffice.
So, as you think of leadership, remember the lessons from the ancient art of falconry. Passion is vital to success, but don’t rely on that desire alone. Acquire the leadership skills necessary to succeed, couple those with passion or vision and you will see your leadership abilities come to life.