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Here's What You Need to Know the Awesome Leader Ecosystem

Let’s start with a few pictures of people.

When we see pictures of people, we make judgments. 

This isn’t your fault. It’s a natural part of human behavior. And it's one that’s almost impossible to avoid. 

Even when you become aware of these judgments and tendencies, it takes active effort to redirect your focus back to the intended message of the photo.

For instance, I can show you this picture . . .

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And you’ll likely identify an attitude. This man looks unhappy. Or angry. Or frustrated. 

It’s nearly impossible to not connect your reactions to the age, gender, and race of the person in the photo.

You start to consider, “Does that man represent our company? Our managers? Do they look like that? Dress like that?”

This man may or may not look like your workplace.

Maybe in your workplace, the person reflective of the demonstrated attitude of a manager looks more like this:

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She looks confident, right? Happy? Focused? Nice office view, eh?

But maybe still not like your workplace. Your company’s employees.

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Implicit biases shape our thinking and can weaken our messages simply by showing the “wrong-looking” people in the picture—even if you use a cartoon like this.

Or a graphic like this.
Still not right, right?

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Now think about a lion.

You likely associate lions with pride. You see its regal stance. You see it overlooking a savannah. You see a lioness stalking prey. You may even think of its ferocity.  

(There’s a reason why ING chose one for their logo. By the way, animals are everywhere in logos; you’ll start to “see” that soon)

These are behaviors you can identify with or associate with others because of the actions they imply rather than their features.

Yet a lion may also mean this:

Or this:

Or even this!

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You see more sides than if you were looking at an angry businessman in a tie or a happy, confident businesswoman in a blazer.

You feel without judgment.

Every animal has both desirable and undesirable traits (depending on your position on the food chain), and each character can work for or against it, based on the ecosystem.

And that’s what your business is—an ecosystem.

One built by a diverse group of people, all working toward a common goal while balancing their own best interests. 

The Awesome Leader animals were chosen to represent different managerial styles, behaviors, and personality traits found in nearly every business.

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And while they may be cute, I assure you, the selection and design process was meticulous.

(And the reasons I selected them may not be as obvious as you think.)

The bull, bear, donkey, sloth, ostrich, and turtle are your team. 

Each thrives in certain settings, works well with selected others, and struggles in the wrong climate. 

By demonstrating with animals rather than people, we’re able to use analogies and see our teammates (and ourselves) based on behaviors rather than the physical characteristics of the avatar. 

I chose these animals not because they’re cute. But because they allow us to lean into a person’s behavior without battling bias.

We see actions rather than appearance

You can’t always do that with portraits, as you saw from the two photos of “business people” or “employees” above.  

The Awesome Leader animals allow people to identify both themselves and others in your workplace ecosystem.

I want them to use the animals to consider which behaviors to use more often and which ones to toss. To take a moment and think about what to do and say—and use the animals as a way to react to their fears and hopes about being a leader. 

This approach is very real, very tested, and it’s very proven.

Just like everything else we do. 

By the way, anthropomorphized characters (characters given human traits) build connections among people — even adults. Brands like GEICO, Energizer, MetLife, Ferrari, Owens Corning, Michelin, Linux, and Planters have been using them for decades. And there’s a reason we all have strong feelings about the names Alexa, Siri, or even Katrina… and why most people even name their Roomba. 

Nobody wants to be bad at their job.

Most people simply aren’t given the time, training, and tools they need to grow into their potential.

Make your managers the exception to this global trend.

Give them the tools to win in ways they didn’t know were possible and see the impact across your entire business.

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