What can Winne the Pooh Teach us About Leadership?

REPOSTED FROM www.barenakedcommunication.com, April, 2010. I just like this post, so I thought I’d share it on this frigid Michigan Monday.

I just finished The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. If you havn’t read this classic, I highly recommend it.

The book teaches Taoist principles through the story of The House at Pooh Corner. Hoff concludes by writing,

“Within each of us there is an Owl, a Rabbit, an Eeyore, and a Pooh. For too long, we have chosen the way of Owl and Rabbit. Now, like Eeyore, we complain about the results. But that accomplishes nothing. If we are smart, we will choose the way of Pooh. As if from far away, it calls to us with the voice of a child’s mind. It may be hard to hear at times, but it is important just the same, because without it, we will never find our way through the Forest.”

Leading others can feel like being lost in a forest full of snares, obstacles, and challenges. Conventional thinking teaches that to survive we must be knowledgeable (like Owl), cunning (like Rabbit), and fearless (like Tigger). But these approaches often fail or, at best, promote mediocre results. When this happens we complain, blame, and become deeply unsatisfied perpetuating negativity (like Eeyore). What a drag!

Thankfully, there is another way to lead, which involves building a positive relationship with yourself and with your followers. The Pooh Way embodies many of the principles of positive leadership, which are well-supported by scientific data.

  • The Pooh Way teaches us to be appreciative, embrace change, and recognize the good in people (especially if they come bearing jars of honey).
  • The Pooh Way teaches us to be who we are. You can’t be the best you if you are busy trying to be an Owl or a Rabbit. Just do who you are, believe in yourself, and others will follow.
  • The Pooh Way teaches us to work with situations rather than against them. Listen to your intuition. Get a feel for the situation. Trust your instincts—these are the things that good leaders do.
  • The Pooh Way teaches us that success is defined less by fighting and winning and more by learning and growing. True growth and development involves changing inside and adapting, which hard-headed go-getters (Rabbits) and false sages (Owls) are reluctant to do for fear of appearing weak.
  • The Pooh Way teaches us to recognize our value and use it. Pessimists play it safe and don’t take risks because they don’t have confidence in their ability to change the situation around them. The Pooh Way teaches us to believe in ourselves and take action without fear of failure.

The Pooh metaphor might seem overdone, but the principles and science behind the story are time tested and empirically valid. If you’re lost in the forest, consider seeking a trusted partner, coach, or mentor.


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