Hunting Like an Owl

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Hunting Like an Owl

Another owl just flew into my life over the Thanksgiving break and I’m taking notice! In many native traditions and certainly in my life, owls appear at transitions and crossroads, beginnings and endings. This owl was a beautiful Mexican ceramic figurine – a gift from my girlfriend to celebrate our long-awaited trip to New Mexico together. There, the warm light, indigo skies and snow-capped mountains inspired conversations about our dreams to take uninhibited flight. The owl, now watching me from its new perch on my mantle, reminds me to consider the connection between visioning and listening.

Many owl species have ears that are asymmetrical – they aren’t placed evenly on the owl’s head like most mammals, including humans. A kind of triangulation allows the animal to pinpoint where a mouse is scratching its nose under two feet of snow from fifty yards away. Accuracy is further refined by the owls very large eyes being located in the middle of the facial disks, built specifically for creating a the perfect dynamic between sight and hearing that allows it to hunt with one of the highest success rates among all raptors. [Click HERE to watch this in action.] There is a poignant leadership lesson here: asymmetrical listening that is highly correlated with vision leads to success.

Asymmetry can be about varying proportions, different time horizons, conflicting points of view, etc. Fundamental to great business leadership is gathering information from multiple inputs like economic conditions, market trends, capacity utilization and workforce flexibility. Holding opposing views proves difficult for the leader for whom symmetry and harmony are desired. But I believe that the leadership of the future belongs to those who can, in greater degree, hold and work with paradox.

Alignment of vision within this context may seem impossible. But taking the owl’s cue, it appears paramount to success. If humans had eyes proportional to body size like an owl’s the pupil would be the size of a small saucer. We compensate for smaller eyes with a much larger brain that allows for greater cognitive abilities. So, it stands to reason that when vision is focused on what things could look like down the road or in the marketplace and all the asymmetrical inputs are considered, achievement of our goals should be more consistent.

Back to my story and why this is important: Part of my vision is to create a place where leaders can gather for personal and professional development, courageous conversations and family adventures. Obstacles to this becoming a reality include financial hurdles, age considerations, unknown demand and a fear that I don’t have enough experience to pull something like this off. But I’m learning that if I look straight into these fears by appreciating the asymmetry of them and align them directly toward my vision I’m much more likely to move toward the outcome I want. That is incredibly energizing and inspiring! How will you take the owl’s hunting lesson into moving toward your goals this next year?