January 4, 2016

What do spiders and Peanuts have to do with Leadership?

Many of you will know of the famous American 20th century architect, author, designer, philosopher and philanthropist Richard Buckminster Fuller.  “Bucky”, as he was known to almost everyone, has become the doyen of many self help gurus and there are many wonderful stories from his life and teachings that are used as examples to illustrate concepts.  I was first introduced to some of the ideas of Dr Fuller at a weekend seminar I attended in the late 1980s called “Money and You“.   At this seminar the concept of “Precession” as described by Bucky was discussed.  Very briefly this can be summarised as:

  1. when you drop a pebble in the lake ripples form in a circle on the surface where the pebble entered the water; and
  2. when a bee gathers nectar from flowers it cross pollinates them.

If you want the longer version please read this post.  There is a lot of pseudo science here but the key message is that when you do something there is any number of other things that could occur that you wouldn’t have thought could happen.  The bee is collecting nectar for the hive, it doesn’t realise that it is creating new life.  By the way, if you are interested in the scientific definition of Precession read this article.

Last weekend I saw an example of this, the Bucky version not the scientific.  We came home from a couple of weeks away visiting relatives and we had trouble finding the dog in the long grass.  The population of Golden Orb Spiders in our back yard had also increased exponentially in that time.  The picture above shows some of our new pets.  The spiders create large webs of golden thread so that they can catch flies and other insects.  This has an unintentional positive effect on our family as it reduces the number of flies around the barbeque.   It also has an unintentional negative effect as our 12 year old son refuses to mow the lawn and I have to.  This is positive and negative Precession caused by the spiders.  Of course they have no idea as to what is going on other than they are catching flies for dinner.

In our daily lives we will never know the effect that we have on those around us.  Like Bucky’s bee or our spiders, we are often oblivious to the wonders that a smile can do for a stranger or a frown can do to a co-worker or a client.

Many of you will have seen the Peanuts Movie over the holidays.  I have been an avid Peanuts fan since early childhood and went to see it with my youngest daughter last Sunday.  For a Peanuts fan it was brilliant and covered all the major bases that you would want to see.  It also has a strong message about leadership.  Charlie Brown shows that despite his low self esteem, when pushed he can do extraordinary things.  Without realising what he was doing he helped many people and motivated all his class mates.  (I won’t go into detail for those of you who are yet to see it).  The key point is that he worked hard on things that he though were important to achieve his goals and the effect that this produced on those around him was extremely positive.  He was acting as a true leader – even though he didn’t realise it.  This is a great example of Bucky’s Precession in action.

The actions that we take in going about our day to day business often have a profound effect on those around us and we don’t even realise it.  If Golden Orb Spiders and Charlie Brown can be leaders, we can all be leaders in our lives;  in our families, in our workplaces, in our communities.  It all depends on how we act and the little things we do.  The beginning of the new year is a great time to think about how our attitude, mood, emotions affect those we interact with in our lives.  I am looking forward to a great 2016.   I wish you every success in your endeavours and I hope you have a terrific year.