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August 7, 2017

Leadership Styles: Do you lead like a shark or a whale?


I remember a clip I saw on Nightline about the difference between sharks and whales. There’s the obvious – Jaws vs. Free Willy, but really, it’s not that simple.

Both rule the seas naturally because of their size and strength, but also because of their ability to hunt.  

And as I watched, I started to think of their respective hunting behaviors as ultimately, different leadership styles.

Whales: Social and work in stable units. Practice their hunting techniques, adapt to changing conditions and operate based on learned behaviors

Sharks: Solitary, less planful, known for surprise attacks and hunt on instinct

There certainly is no one leadership style, but my wish is we all try and lead a little bit more like the whales:

  • Be planful
  • Focus on outcomes
  • Act deliberately
  • Adapt to change over time
  • Teach others
  • Be team-oriented

If we avoid leading like the sharks – self-focused, work in a vacuum and making shot-in-the-dark decisions – we’ll save ourselves from a wave of repercussions making it that much easier to lead our teams to a swimming success.  

Do you lead like a shark or a whale? And what could you do differently?

—David Grossman

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