LEADER’S FIELD GUIDE
Ostriches don’t bury their heads in the sand—they wouldn’t be able to breathe! But they do dig holes in the dirt to use as nests for their eggs. Several times a day, a bird puts her head in the hole and turns the eggs. So, it really does look like the birds are burying their heads in the sand! – National Geographic
The myth-inspired idiom burying their heads in the sand is used to describe individuals ignoring or hiding from signs of danger or discomfort. Admittedly, very few of us arrive at work running straight for the most challenging task or conversation. When faced with danger, ostriches can sprint in short bursts up to 43 mph and maintain a steady speed of 31 mph (Live Science). But, if they can’t run from danger, they will flop to the ground hoping to blend in (San Diego Zoo). Hard to imagine an 8-foot, 250-pound bird trying to blend in!
Ok, perhaps not the best model of leadership under threat. Here’s why the ostrich’s three-pronged approach to danger doesn’t work:
- Burrowing or Ignoring: Obviously, with heads in the sand, we are isolated. Not isolated from the problem, just isolated from additional information and support. We may try to ignore an issue and act like we can’t see it– yet it still sees us!
- Running or Avoiding: Trying to escape a problem leaves us always looking back to ensure we’re free. Momentarily, we are free, but not forever. Who wants to be hunted by a problem that just won’t go away, when a bit of effort and courage will fix it for good?
- Flopping or Hiding: Trying to blend in is just another way of hiding. Leaders who face issues head on are granted greater access and responsibility. Leaders who blend in are easily passed over because their abilities are unknown or distrusted.
The ostrich’s 7-foot wingspan can’t compensate for its weight, making it the world’s largest flightless bird. So, when attacked in close proximity, this bird can kick 2000 pounds of force per square inch, enough to kill a lion. Now, that sounds like a fourth option: taking out the problem! If we face challenging situations head on they don’t spiral out of control, make us look ineffective, or tax our minds with stressful overhead of conspiring to avoid. I love Mark Twain’s reminder which is in stark contrast to the behavior of the ostrich’s mythical head in the sand:
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” ~ Mark Twain
Book Recommendation: Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, by Brian Tracy
— Join a Synergy Group where we will discuss what the
Bible says about Avoidance. —
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sugerman (PMP, PCC) is a speaker, author, and leadership coach with Leading Synergies. She founded Synergy Groups, virtual masterminds connecting Christians in leadership around the globe for the purpose of Community, Accountability, and Transformation. She also partners with high-performers and heirs-apparent especially in the STEM industries. Michelle’s formal background in technology, franchise, and project management gives her an edge on implementing best practices and scaling towards sustainable success. Michelle lives in Colorado where she hikes fourteeners and enjoys gourmet meals with her loving husband of 22 years.
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