To: The Great Leaders Who Have a Passion for Continuous Learning
My friend and Mentor Michael Reuter Leadership Professor at SHU shared this
Allegories are those beautiful stories and poems that capture our imagination and open our eyes to new insight and meaning about ideas, concepts and realities. Great leaders enjoy the richness that they offer. The allegory of the eagle invites great leaders to reflect on the meaning of change.
The Eagle has the longest life span of its species. It can live up to 70 years but, to reach this age, the eagle must make a very difficult decision. In its 40th year, its long and flexible talons can no longer grab prey which serves as food. Its long and sharp beak becomes bent. The feathers become old, thick and heavy. The thick and heavy feathers stick to its chest and makes it difficult to fly. Then, the eagle is left with two options: die or go through a painful process of change. The process lasts for 150 days (5 months).
The change process requires the eagle to fly to a mountain top and sit on its nest. Then, the eagle knocks its beak against a rock until it plucks it out. Then, the eagle will wait for a new beak to grow back and then it will pluck out its talons. When the new talons grow back, the eagle starts plucking its heavy and thick feathers. And after this….. the eagle takes its famous flight of re-birth and lives for another 30 years. Why is the change needed? To survive and live.
The allegory is powerful and dramatic in its message fervently captured in the words of W. Edwards Deming: “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” Great leaders have a deep realization of the world around them. They know and feel the weight of their own feathers and the sharpness of their beaks – their approaches, tools, beliefs and visions. They continuously reassess what is and will be needed to achieve their life’s purpose. They know that change is a choice, and also a necessity. They understand and have internalized the words of Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” In their life they have chosen to be, as Mahatma Ghandi said, the change they want to see in the world.