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Leadership Without
Losing Your Soul

Podcast with David Dye

Leadership Perspective from Desert Island Donkeys

Leadership Perspective from Desert Island Donkeys

by | May 26, 2023 | Podcast |

“There’s nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” – Arthur Conan Doyle. Leadership perspective creates different kinds of creative solutions that make far more sense and have more support than the limited but obvious approach you might have started with. Many times, particularly as a leader, a tough question is way more important than having an easy answer, and a discussion is more valuable than the dictate. Can you identify the issues that are obvious to everyone and find value in the different perspectives?

Leadership Perspective from Desert Island Donkeys

00:11

As we’re talking about obvious facts, getting into leadership perspective, curiosity and how obvious facts can hamstring us as leaders. That’s where we’re going today. But before we do, wanted to let you know that Karin and I are hard at work on our next book. It’s coming out next year, so a little under a year from when you’re listening to this in real time.  It’s about workplace conflict and all about powerful phrases that you can use to deal with workplace conflict. This is the kind of resource that you can use yourself, that you can certainly give to all of your team and all of the human-centered leadership approaches that you’re so accustomed to on the show will be talking about in terms of how you can do those as team members and have those kinds of conversations with one another and not from an assumption that conflict is bad or negative.

02:02

Conflict can be very helpful. Effective teams and good leaders should be having good, productive conflict around ideas that help us to make better decisions.  We are doing a world Workplace Conflict and collaboration survey, and we have a little over 5,000 participants around the world right now. So wherever you are, would love to invite you to participate in the survey, and you can do that at WorldWorkplaceConflictSurvey.com.  It’ll just take five minutes and we’d love to get your voice. We are collecting people’s experiences of workplace conflict, what they’re experiencing today, what your experience has been in the past, stories of conflict, stories of collaboration, and what makes it all work. So we’re taking all of that data and incorporating it into the book and findings as well. We’d love to get your voice.

03:33

Let’s turn our attention to leadership perspective and there’s nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact. What’s going on there? Well, there is this desert island in the South Caribbean. It’s called Bon Air. If you’re a scuba diver, you certainly are familiar with it because that is what it’s globally most known for, is scuba diving. It has fantastic coral reefs, flamingos, sea salt production, and oddly donkeys. So desert islands, fantastic coral reefs, flamingos, and sea salt all occur naturally. Donkeys, not so much, so where’d they come from? Well, in the 1600s, Spaniards brought donkeys to the island to haul salt and equipment. They evaporate the salt water and get salt, and you’ve got this nice sea salt. So you’re having the donkeys haul the equipment around.

04:33

But then when more modern transportation became available, people abandoned the donkeys, let ’em go, and turned ’em loose to their own fate, and the donkeys roamed the island fending for themselves with no oversight or caretakers. But Bon Air is not the most hospitable environment for donkeys. It’s an arid climate, and you’ve got increased tourism and many donkeys fall victim to illness or car accidents. They’re also an invasive species. So you think about the donkeys eating any moisture-laden plants that they find. When Arthur Koen Doyle has Sherlock Holmes tell us, there’s nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact. I think he was talking to me about Bon Air’s donkeys. It’s an invasive species that’s suffering and harming the island’s ecology. Wouldn’t it make sense to solve the problem, obviously? Well, at least it was obvious to me. And so that brings us to one solution.

05:34:

The Donkey Sanctuary was started in 1993 to remove the animals from the incompatible environment and care for the sick, injured, and orphaned donkeys. Volunteers and donations would come in and help care for the several hundred donkeys that the sanctuary took in. They’d take care of injured donkeys, get them out of the wild, reduce their impact on the native plants, and animals, and reduce donkey-human conflict. I’ve actually visited the sanctuary. It’s hysterical, it’s a glorious donkey-saturated time of smacking lips, crunching carrots, and wide smiles. It’s a little freaky to see that many donkeys, but they’re a lot of fun. So that sounds like something everyone can get behind, obviously a good thing, right? Well, I thought so, but it turns out not everyone sees it the same way. There’s a petition that had more than 3000 people of the island’s population, which is only 20,000 people, to maintain Bon Air’s wild donkey population. They argue that the sanctuary’s practice of sterilizing male donkeys is eventually going to lead to the extinction of donkeys on the island. And for them, that’s a problem. Even though the wild donkeys aren’t indigenous, their supporters view the donkeys as part of their culture and heritage. It has been for the last 450 years. They also have concerns about the humane treatment of the donkeys within the sanctuary. So their bottom line is they want the donkeys to remain wild and for people to treat them well.

07:14

Do you recognize this kind of frustration? You figure out a great solution to an irritating problem, and you unveil it only to find out that not only do people dislike your solution, but they also don’t even see your problem as a problem. I have had this happen so many times as a new supervisor trying to solve an obvious inefficiency in a process that my team had no interest in changing. I have had it as a family member trying to better organize the kitchen and in those moments, I’m always inclined to dig in, explain why I’m right, try to, and I put this in quotes, help everyone else understand the facts that are so obvious to me. But if you’ve tried that, you already know how that ends. As the saying goes, those convinced against their will are of the same opinion.

08:08

Still, the donkey sanctuary situation made it clear to me that arguing is a waste of time and energy. Though it does sell commercials for talk shows and news channels. There’s another way to find leadership perspective, as someone wanting to be an effective human being. We can listen. When people can’t see what’s obvious to you, it’s not that they’re obstinate, ignorant, or broken. People are different. They have had different experiences, different values, different personalities. They’re looking at the world through filters just like you do. These are opportunities for us to listen, to get their insights, to find out what it is that’s obvious to them, and to look for the rightness in their perspective. What is it that makes such obvious sense to them that they’ll wonder how you could be so blind? For myself, I know that I’m a way better leader, parent, partner, and human being when I stop coming to everyone with all my answers, solutions, and my obvious facts.

09:14

Many times, leadership perspective means knowing a tough question is more important than having an easy answer, and a discussion is more valuable than the dictate. So as a leader, can you identify the issues that are obvious to everyone? Find the value in the different leadership perspectives, and it’s possible to find and create different kinds of creative solutions that make far more sense and have more support than the limited but obvious approach you might have started with. And no, it’s not always possible to craft a solution that meets every need, but you’ll never find it if you don’t look for it.

09:59

So some thoughts on leadership, courtesy of the donkeys on the desert island of Bon Air in the South Caribbean. Hope as you are thinking about your day going forward, find one place to show up with curiosity to investigate what are the obvious facts for someone else that isn’t so obvious to you, and be the leader you’d want your boss to be. Thanks for listening. And if you enjoyed that episode and want more stories like that, you can find a whole collection of essays and my most recent book Tomorrow Together, which is filled with Essays of Hope, Healing, and Humanity. Many of them with leadership applications just like our desert Island donkeys, but not all of them. Many of them do. Ask those tough questions, have lots of different reflections, and so forth. You can find tomorrow together, anywhere books are sold. Thanks for listening.

World Workplace Conflict and Collaboration

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David Dye helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  He’s the President of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. He’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Leadership without Losing Your Soul podcast. David is a former executive and elected official. David and his wife and business partner, Karin Hurt, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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Be More Daring

BUILD CONFIDENCE, TRUST AND CONNECTION WITH CONSISTENT ACTS OF MANAGERIAL COURAGE

 

 

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7 Practical Ways to be a Bit More Daring

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