White Snow. A pack of 25 wolves.
The first 3 are the older or sick & they set the pace of the group. If it were on the contrary, they would be left behind and lost contact with the pack. In ambush case they would be sacrificed.
The following are the 5 strongest. In the center follow the remaining members of the pack, & at the end of the group the other 5 stronger. Last, alone, follows the alpha wolf. It controls everything from the rear. That position can control the whole group, decide the direction to follow & anticipate the attacks.
Isn’t that wonderful?
If you spent some time in the last months on LinkedIn and watched your newsfeed it is likely that you have come across this picture and a text along the lines above.
It was shared and liked thousands of times.
There is just a small problem with this story:
According to fact checking platfom www.snopes.com it is completely made up.
The picture is real and was taken as part of a BBC documentary. Here, however, the rather dry description of author Chadden Hunter:
« The wolf pack, led by the alpha female, travel single-file through the deep snow to save energy. »
That’s it. Nothing more. No story, no old and sick wolves, no setting the pace.
And yet the first made-up story spread like wild fire on social media.
The comments, of which are thousands, are especially interesting:
- « Thanks for this revealing image and interpretation. We’ve got much to learn, beautiful ideas which touch all aspects of society in one image. Thank you! »
- « We forget too often that the rhythm of a group is set by the slowest. Helping the slowest gives cohesion to the whole group. »
We see that the concept of “post-truth” doesn’t stop at politics – it’s also present in the realm of leadership and management.
One reads something that fits the worldview. A nice story makes it visual. So far, so good.
It only gets a bit dangerous once this thinking starts to reflect on your actions, starts to guide your leadership approach. When you look at your team or organization and start to think: „wouldn’t it be great if we were like this wolf pack?“
I’d like to contrast this post-factual management with another idea: evidence-based leadership.
I believe we should become our own observers and start to measure what works for us – and what not. We can do this by building our own leadership scorecard with a set of metrics that are important for us.
Here are three possibilities for leadership metrics that you can start tracking for a month or two and see what the outcome is:
- # of concrete things implemented: Talk is cheap, implementation is difficult. Try to track and measure for yourself or with your team the amount of concrete things that you implement. Push to have every week something concrete and relevant.
- # of strategy updates per week: Strategy and vision is often blurry. At the beginning of a year it is shared with big fanfares to the full organization, then it fades away. Want to take it even further? Measure the percentage of decisions that are on strategy.
- % of worries that come true: This is a metric that James Altucher once shared. Write down your key worries in a book. Go back to them after a month or two. Check if they came true and track the percentage and see what happens.
These are just three ideas for metrics. You can get creative around them and add your own metrics (you can find further inspiration here.)
Get grounded in reality
As Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work, says: “In the absence of metrics, people fall back to what is easiest.” And I would add: they additionally fall back to lofty narratives like the wolf pack.
Instead, lead yourself and your organization to success in the real world. Less glamorous at times, sure. But more rewarding in the long run.
Lars Sudmann focuses on high-performance leadership in global corporations. You can contact Lars to work with you as change consultant, keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, or transformation coach. You can watch his TEDx talks on his page www.lars-sudmann.com.
This is an article that appeared in German in Lars’ column in the business magazine Bilanz.
Image credit wolf pack picture: BBC Documentary