Meerkat in Action – Learning from Nature

I love animals and took this picture of a Meerkat family at Rietvlei Nature Reserve, Pretoria, South Africa.

Meerkats live in very harsh conditions across Africa but they are capable to adopt very smart survival strategies, which is mainly based on mutual trust. “One member is assigned the job of guard while the mob feeds. As soon as they spot any danger, they alert the whole clan, which then has enough time to run for safety.” Meerkat are part of the Mongoose family, but have evolved in the Southern part of Africa and learned how to survive in extremely harsh environments.

For Meerkats, it is all about trust; one slip of alerting the mob can be the difference between life and death.

From a knowledge management perspective, due to uncertainties, threats and constraints, we are also required to work in “harsh” conditions and need smart knowledge management strategies to survive.

What can we learn?

Words like “Trust, Social, collaboration, teamwork, caretakers, stay safe from predators. Meerkats are very good at digging (knowledge leaders need to dig deep!), immune to certain types of venom (don’t take it personally). Have excellent eyesight, they can spot predators at great distance and have ample time to react (knowledge leaders need to have a good vision, stand tall and look at the bigger picture and change their strategy at exactly the right time). Meerkats are lovable.. Knowledge leaders need to be admired as well.
Feel free to add your lessons to the list.

What’s in a title or position?

When I started my career in knowledge management nearly 20 years ago, I started to build a network with people I admired within the knowledge management field. The leaders in Knowledge Management. I admired them for their insight and leadership.

At that stage I had only one thing in mind, and that was to also become a leader within the field of Knowledge Management. I wanted to get the title and status within my organisation.

After a discussion with my mentor, he explained to me that “leadership” is not always about a position or a title.

“You are already making waves within the knowledge management field in a very gentle way, he said, the passion and dedication you show and the confidence you have while doing it is making you a little leader. We need more little leaders in the company”.

A little leader?

It took me a while to figure out what he meant by a little leader, until one day when the penny finally dropped for me.

You don’t need fancy titles, positions or status to be a leader. You need people to follow you, believe in your vision and trust you. You need people to reach out to you and look up at you. You need to be the “go to” person. When you inspire and motivate others to act you are a leader!

Nelson Mandela confirmed this theory with his quote a few years later “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”

A little leader leads mostly from behind.

As a little leader I had to show I had guts, I had to take risks. My reputation was all I had.

I have learned that you don’t need fancy titles or on a certain level within an organisation to lead. Go forth and show enthusiasm for what you believe in. Inspire others. Take responsibility and ask great questions. Be a little leader.

The day I could see beyond my title and positionCommentShareShare The day I could see beyond my title and position