I recently had an opportunity to visit a well-known Big Game Reserve situated on the border of South Africa and Botswana. I love spending time in the African bush, and it gives me an opportunity to fulfill one of my passions – photography. One of my favorite photographic animals is that of the African Elephant. Elephants are generally gregarious and form small family groups consisting of an older matriarch and three or four offspring, along with their young. They are intelligent animals displaying complex behaviors. With a skilled guide one is able to get quite close to these sentient beings.
On this particular occasion we drove in a game-viewing vehicle and encountered just such a family group. There was an old matriarch with a few of her offspring. Together with one of the young mothers was a young bull Elephant. I would guess he was no older than 2.5 years, as he just formed small tusks. He was upset with us being in his territory and proceeded to flap his ears, pick up dust and throw it in the air, just generally showing us what he is capable of. Clearly we dare not get any closer! As we drove away he also gave us a good trumpet to send us on our way. It was clear that in his view he had taught us a good lesson.
This fascinating encounter made me think of how we develop in our careers and of those leaders that eventually stand out above others. I would often give advice to my mentees in this regard as they grow in their careers. I tell them – do not think you will suddenly start to act or behave differently once you get that promotion or that next position. Generally I think there are 3 important behaviors one needs to exhibit if you want to make progress in your career:
- Self-belief – You have to believe in your own capabilities. Do not doubt what you are capable of. Work hard on your self-belief and never spend time thinking that you just are not good enough. If you keep on thinking you are not good enough, you probably are not.
- Act as if you are there – It is no good thinking that one day when I get to the next level or the next position I will suddenly become a better or smarter boss. Be that person now, this way when people ask – well, whom should we consider for the position? The answer becomes obvious.
- Stand tall and stand out – make a difference, and constantly look out for doing things better, faster and smarter. Show initiative and do not be scared to get out of your comfort zone. People who show initiative, and constantly look out for alternative ways to do things stand out from the crowd.
To that young bull elephant it did not matter that he was a quarter of the size of a grown Elephant. He was an Elephant and that was all that mattered. Do you act as if you are already there, or do you wait?