As autumn nights started to approach, the air conditioning was turned off and the windows were opened. The smell of the fresh fall air filled the room with a wonderful fragrance. But, as I laid in darkness in another extended bout of insomnia, I couldn’t figure out what strange animal sound kept grabbing my attention nightly. Finally, as I looked out the window later that week, I saw a strange bird flying around with an impressive wingspan. It was an Owl.
In mythology, literature, and many belief systems, the qualities and characteristics of animals are often personified. The traits of the Owl are behaviors that are associated with successful leaders — vision, insight, and wisdom.
In organizations, leaders see and provide the vision that inspires people to make the impossible possible and drives people to work together as a team to accomplish what no one could do as individuals. That vision becomes substance and results through faith, work, and resilience.
Insight is defined as an instance of apprehending the true nature of a thing, especially through intuitive understanding. Author John C. Maxwell in The 21 Indispensible Qualities of a Leader describes this in the qualities of discernment and problem solving. Harlan Cleveland said that leaders are problem solvers by choice, talent and temperament. They don’t know all of the answers, but they know how to seek answers to the right questions and stay focused long enough to obtain the desired results.
Wikipedia.org defines wisdom as “a deep understanding and realizing of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to choose or act to consistently to produce the optimum results with a minimum of time and energy.” A wise person has self-knowledge, is sincere and direct with others, is asked for advice by others, and has actions that are consistent with their ethical beliefs. Maxwell talks about this in his discussion on self-reliance, relationship, problem solving, and character.
Andy Andrews in his book Mastering the Seven Decisions That Determine Personal Success asserts that wisdom is “an intuitive element, an insight gained from personal experience that serves us as we make choices in our lives.” Wisdom should not be mistaken for education. It’s the aggregation of discrete bits of incomplete knowledge that the wise man transforms into a deep understanding.
The insight, vision, and wisdom of the Owl leader come in the darkness of the night, during a time when many of us slumber. I think I will give up my losing battle with insomnia and listen to the soothing hoot of the Owl as I drift away dreaming a little dream of leadership.
Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA