Recently my wife and I discovered bird watching. We find we are particularly drawn to raptors, or birds of prey. We have a family of red-shouldered hawks that live near us and it’s fascinating to watch as they “make their way in the world today”. And that’s me with Paige, a bald eagle being rehabilitated at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland, FL.
Sometime last year, Linda found a website of “eagle cams“, where you can watch, up close and personal, a family of bald eagles build a nest, hatch a clutch, raise the babies and teach them the ways of the world.
It was the story of Tiny, the runt of the litter last year, that really caught my attention.
Tiny was, well, tiny. Smallest chick in the clutch, not very strong and destined for malnutrition. Instead of giving him special attention and extra care, (which the other chick would surely resent) mama eagle made Tiny fight for food and his place in the clutch. It may have seemed cruel and unfair to watch, but in the end Tiny was stronger, and ultimately survived, because of it.
This brings to mind a phrase most of us have heard in many variations, but the original is credited to the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche.
“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
Mama eagle knew that Tiny needed physical strength, confidence, and the ability to stand up for himself – not pity. She put him in situations where he HAD to fight. He had to scrap it out with his brothers and sisters in order to survive. She tested him, and if he didn’t do well on the test there would be no awkward report card discussion… the consequences were much more severe than that.
White I certainly don’t advocate keeping food from your employees, I do think leaders have a responsibility to develop the skills and abilities employees need to be confident and responsible. Sometimes this might be viewed as cruel from the outside, but life lessons are often not the most pleasing experiences. Better to go through a “controlled burn” (to borrow a phrase from NASA) than to learn things “the hard way”.
I have a friend who is viewed (from the outside of his circle) as someone who doesn’t do much and is constantly dumping his work on the people that report to him. The reality is that the people that have worked for him in the past typically move on faster (and to higher positions) not to get away from him, but because they have the skills to do so. He challenged them to try new things and jump into unfamiliar territory, and then made sure they learned something from each experience. They became stronger, and ultimately survived, just like Tiny.
Here’s to you, Tiny, for passing the test!