On parrots and leadership


A man entered a pet shop, wanting to buy a parrot. The shop owner pointed out three identical parrots on a perch and said, “The parrot to the left costs $500.”

“Why does that parrot cost so much?” the man wondered.

The owner replied, “Well, it knows how to use a computer.”

The man asked about the next parrot on the perch.

“That one costs $1,000 because it can do everything the other parrot can do, plus it knows how to do data mining and operate our latest software.” Naturally, the startled customer asked about the third parrot.

“That one costs $2,000.”

“And what does that one do?” the man asked.

The owner replied, “To be honest, I’ve never seen him do a thing, but the other two call him boss!”

Obviously, the third one has the title, but may not be considered a good leader in its truest sense. It has been said that leadership is risky business if the wrong person ends up in the role.

There are many good leaders in business organizations who are well-loved, respected, and admired. I know many of them. And then there are also those personalities that make you wonder how such people made it up the leadership ranks? Perhaps they have political power and connections, and maybe they have tenure and seniority. Perhaps people who are promoted into leadership roles are products of convenience. Once in their career, this person may have shown flashes of management potential and a critical position opened up. It would be easier and economical to promote them to a leadership position and avoid high recruitment costs.

Whereas such “unscientific practices” may have worked in the past, we need to understand that the leaders of the present age need to raise the bar higher to keep their people engaged and effectively run the business in a challenging environment made more difficult because of the pandemic.

The sound and effective leaders I have met have consistently shown similar traits that propelled their organizations toward growth and success sustainability. They inspire their people to release discretionary effort, and they would not even entertain the idea of moving to another company despite the enticement of higher pay and perks.

These are the common traits I see good and effective leaders demonstrate:

1. Good leaders show recognition and appreciation.

Whether it is COVID, pre-COVID, and I suspect even in a post-COVID era, the top two reasons why good people leave are still the same:

a. They cannot get along with their bosses.

b. They feel they are unappreciated.

Good leaders know how to express their appreciation. Yes, they may be firm and demand a high production level, but they are fair in terms of rewards, recognition, and expression of gratitude.

2. Good leaders trust and empower their people to make decisions.

Good leaders allow the voices of their people to be heard, and they mine good ideas from them. Employees who experience and feel that their suggestions and ideas matter will be engaged while enjoying a positive employee experience.

3. Good leaders invest in their people’s personal development.

I can see a radical change in the mindset of the millennials and Gen Z entering the workplace. They are all hungry for learning and development, not only on hard skills, but also on soft skills development. Both generations want to unleash their untapped potential, and they appreciate leaders who invest in their training to become the best versions of themselves, as this prepares them to level up for their next job. It also shows the company cares about the whole employee, not just a part.

4. Good leaders are trustworthy, accessible, and provide regular feedback.

Since the lockdown, many virtual initiatives have been offered, like virtual happy hour, games, dances, virtual parties, etc. These are fun moments designed to improve camaraderie. They provide a temporary fun relief to the already stressed employees locked down in their homes. While these initiatives offer a brief respite, they will not make people want to do better work. What works is when the people feel like they can bring their whole selves to work and they can be creative and take risks without fear of negative consequences. They trust their leaders and they feel safe. The leaders coach them and do not judge or penalize them. This makes them want to do better work more often.

If you happen to find all these traits available in you, then may your tribe increase. And if these are absent in you, you would not even find the parrot story funny, do you?



(Francis Kong’s highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership Master Class Online will have its final run for the year from Nov. 17 to 19. For inquiries and reservations, contact April at +63928-559-1798 or and for more information, visit www.levelupleadership.ph)

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