Hawk Attacks and Leadership

I was intrigued when I heard on a news report about hawks attacking people in central Florida. Red-Shouldered hawks, like most predatory birds, rarely attack humans without a good reason. Doing a quick online search, I found, Nesting hawks attack patrons outside Florida library. The story made more sense after reading it.

The hawks have a nest near the library and have some new eyas ("babies" for you hawk-challenged readers). They are attacking people because they see these library patrons as a threat to what is important to them-their offspring.

Effective leaders know that people can react much like these hawks when their priorities are threatened. Poor leaders see their behavior as a personal attack, when it's really a fear-based response. They simply don't want to lose something they have worked so hard to create and nurture.

If you are under attack from others who you are attempting to lead in a new direction, ask yourself these questions:

Could some of my actions, although innocent, be seen as threatening something important to someone else?
  • Have I taken the time to understand what my people value?
  • Are others seeing me as a threat to what they hold dear, or am I casting a vision that demonstrates I recognize what is important to them?
  • Could some of my actions, although innocent, be seen as trying to tear down something important to others?
  • Have I communicated my intentions clearly so they can see me as an ally and not an adversary?

In the case of the attacking hawks, the solution has been to encourage library patrons to use umbrellas to protect themselves from the protective parents. These hawks are a federally protected species and their nest can not be moved without a special permit. Once the eyas are old enough to leave the nest, the attacks will stop.

I'm afraid too many leaders practice a similar tactic with their people. They avoid the real issues, and this only serves to diminish the level of trust from those in the organization, so they keep attacking any of their ideas or suggestions. Unlike the hawks, however, these tension filled moments don't subside with time-until someone leaves.

Who might be attacking your leadership today to protect what's important to them?