Updated: Jun 17
Creating an Adaptive and Developmental Culture
The Origin of Eagle Awareness
As a young man, I spent as much time as possible in nature and studied how our earth-based, Native American culture lived in harmony with nature. They were open to letting the natural world show them how to live successfully in harmony with their environment.
In this indigenous culture, the raptor we call the Bald Eagle was revered for its many spiritual powers. For many young warriors, it was embraced as a natural model to be emulated. Early on, I adopted it as my spirit guide or totem.
As a spirit, the eagle is gifted with supreme self-awareness described as Eagle Awareness:
“Without one bit of hubris, we realize what other people may think about us really doesn’t matter; in fact, it is none of our business.”
“All that matters is what we think about ourselves and how true we are to our values, purpose, vision, and the best that is within us as we pursue our unique Hero’s Journey and live our low-stress, fulfilling life adventure. We are a special flock.”
Yes, this ideal is somewhat aspirational, but its essence is attainable by all leaders who realize that deep self-awareness, a sound understanding of all that they are, and all that they are not, is a path to authenticity and authentic leadership. They are able to bring who they are to how they lead.
Throughout my management career, I had responsibility for turning around many unprofitable operations. This required assembling and developing innovative teams of enthusiastically engaged employees. I soon discovered that the way the team worked together – the team’s culture — was more important than their individual technical competencies or experience. To paraphrase Jim Collins (Author of “Good to Great”): We had to “get the right people in the right seats on the bus” in order to deliver a profitable turn around.
Eagle Awareness became a metaphor for the six employee qualities we discovered made the critical difference. In these challenging situations, all other issues were secondary to our ability to attract employees with the desired six qualities; that is, create “A Gathering of Eagles.”
Eagle Awareness as Expressed Today
Today’s world is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA**). The same six employee qualities that were essential for assembling innovative teams of enthusiastically engaged employees in the past are even more critical in today’s turbulent world:
Eagles know who they are and who they are not. They treat themselves with radical self-acceptance, gentle good humor and loving kindness; all of which are core of their grit and deep unshakable resilience.
It is this resilience that enables them to deal with the uncertainty and ambiguity of the environment.
Because of their awareness, Eagles are Learning Leaders with the courage to relinquish comfortable but stale habits and beliefs as they soar into unknown realms and new realities, continually expanding their vision of whom they can become.
Problem Solving Mentality
Eagles have a positive, problem solving, “Can-Do” attitude that enables them to discover innovative solutions to the adaptive challenges created by the disruptive technologies driving the volatile and complex environment.
High positivity, with a warm disposition, is essential for an emotionally safe ecosystem where creativity is abundant.
Negative emotions are contagious. They destroy both creativity and engagement. Negativity cannot be tolerated, even in the most “brilliant jerk.”
Eagles thoughtfully listen and consider diverse viewpoints. Their leadership style is cooperative not authoritarian. They build collaborative and transformative relationships. They persuasively present their ideas and disagree without being disagreeable.
Eagles do what they say they will do when they say they will do it. You can count on them to deliver on their commitments. On the rare occasion when they will not be able to deliver on a commitment, they immediately acknowledge the issue and negotiate the best possible recovery, limiting the adverse consequences.
Curiosity, Humor, Humility and Vulnerability
Eagles have an insatiable curiosity for learning and assimilating new ideas and concepts leading to new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving. Eagles don’t take themselves too seriously. They can laugh at their “humanmess” and acknowledge their “humanness.” Eagles are not pretentious, arrogant or exhibit any of the toxic behaviors. (The four team toxins are criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling.) Eagles are comfortable acknowledging when they don’t know the answer to a question or have the solution to a problem. Without shame or embarrassment, they can say “I don’t have a clue! What do you think?”
Eagles take full responsibility for their life, career and professional development. They are never a “victim,” they are always “response – able.” They have a “horse sense & hustle.” They are self-motivating, disciplined and don’t wait to be told what to do. They take full responsibility for the consequences of their choices.
I Choose to live by Choice, Not by chance. I Choose to make behavioral changes, Not excuses. I Choose to be motivated, Not manipulated. I Choose to be useful, Not used. I Choose to excel: exceeding my personal best, Not compete. I Choose to be Responsible, Not a Victim. I Choose to create Resonance in my Relationships, Not Dissonance. I Choose Win-Win in reconciling difference, Not Win-Loose. I Choose to listen to my inner voice, Not the random opinions of the crowd. The Choice is mine, always mine and only mine. Adapted from the original work of Alexander Starr.
Individuals with Eagle Awareness are functioning at the highest level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – Self-Actualization. They are well grounded in Social Emotional Intelligence.
One of the hard lessons I have learned and relearned many times is the folly of not basing all employee selection decisions on embracing these six Eagle Awareness qualities as threshold requirements, and thus failing to create A Gathering of Eagles.
Only after potential employees meet these requirements, are other required qualifications considered. This strategy creates a higher high ROI in all organizations, but is especially important in new startups where inefficiency, delays and errors can be fatal.
Our Authentic Leadership Insights model is designed to assist leaders of existing organizations in developing A Gathering of Eagles within their leadership teams. We believe A Gathering of Eagles is critically important to creating innovative teams of enthusiastically engaged employees in an adaptive culture, one that will prosper in today’s VUCA environment.
When leaders with an Eagle Eye view the scene from above the noise and chaos, they clearly see the big picture and discern what is truly important. In making decisions, large or small they hover above all the possibilities. They thoughtfully listen to all the diverse views. When they move into action, they move with an eagle’s decisiveness. They are “All-In Engaged” without reservation or equivocation.