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Leadership Lessons—Eagles

We flew to Washington, D.C., this past Sunday for the International Franchise Association’s IFA’s (IFA) Public Affairs Conference. More than 400 franchisees and franchisors descend on Capitol Hill to tell Congressmen and Senators what small businesses need from them. In one word—support! Our message represents every small business owner—not just those in the franchise world.

Mary Kay, my wife, had just attended The Dwyer Group’s annual Reunion in Orlando, Fla. More than 1,800 of us joined together for four days of fun, meetings and honoring our Franchisees of the Year. The event was filled with leaders from all seven of Dwyer’s brands and too numerous to cite. The highest honor bestowed is the Leadership Eagle.

On the Saturday between these two events Mary Kay and I were driving in Florida and she pointed out an eagle’s nest built in a light pole. Eagle’s nests can be mammoth! The largest on record was over 9 feet across and 18 feet deep. We once discovered a bald eagle’s nest not far from our house in Florida. This site drew scores of eagle followers and photographers every day as we watched two eaglets grow.

I’ve been an admirer of eagles for years. In fact, I collect eagle icons—one of my most prized possessions is a beer stein with an eagle perched on top that my son brought back to me from his first tour of duty in Iraq. Another favorite is an eagle statue my daughter painted for me. On our last cruise we purchased two beautiful paintings of eagles.

I learned that bald eagles often gather together at feeding sites—such as where salmon spawn. Often up to a thousand join together at winter roosts—similar to the thousand plus business owners in Orlando last week. They get nourishment from food: We nourished our minds—sharpening our skills.

Eagles have unusual eyesight. It is so keen that they can spot a rabbit from two miles away. Leaders do, too. Leaders are able to spot potential trouble areas long before they happen. Leaders also see solutions for problems long before others do.

To defend their territories or attract a mate, a bald eagle puts on spectacular aerial shows with death-defying swoops and what-looks-like death defying fights by locking talons with another bird and free falling in a spiral. Many leaders do the same. They do what they can do to impress a potential mate (employee) or lock horns with a competitor to defend their territory.

Eagles are recognized throughout the world as symbols of power and freedom. So are many of our leaders.

Eagles puff up their feathers when threatened. Have you experienced situations where people, who thought they were leaders, puffed themselves up? Pure ego.

Great leaders don’t have to do this. They are larger than life—but deserve the recognition they get.

They don’t need to “puff out their feathers.”

There was a time when eagles were on the endangered species list. Have you ever felt that about leaders? That they seem to be few and far between?

I noticed the same. Then I realized what it takes to be a better leader. It takes work. It takes commitment. It takes having the eyes of an eagle. Seeing situations clearly, anticipating the future and having a plan B, C and sometimes even plan D. That is what great leaders do.

I’d ask you this week to use the vision of an eagle when it comes to leadership. Become majestic in situations requiring leadership. Be confident. Eagles are worthy of admiration. Great leaders are, too.

I never knew why I love bald eagles so much. Now I do.

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