Archive for May, 2011

Are You a Hedgehog or a Fox?

Are You a Hedgehog or a Fox?

Posted on 22. May, 2011 by Julia Mitchell.

The Fox Knows Many Things, But The Hedgehog Knows One Big Thing” Archilochus (7th-century b.c.e.)


Which one are you?

The ancient parable of the fox and the hedgehog has come into increasing view in popular culture lately.  And while its origins are somewhat ambiguous, the allegory has been applied to entrepreneurs, scientists, philosophers, playwrights, business leaders, economists, and even US presidents.

One of the fables goes something like this;

A fox and a hedgehog were strolling through a country path.  Periodically, they were threatened by hungry wolves.  The fox — being blessed with smarts, speed and agility — would lead packs of wolves on a wild chase through the fields, up and down trees, and over hill and dale.  Eventually the fox would return to the path, breathless but having lost the wolves, and continue walking.  The hedgehog, being endowed with a coat of spikes, simply hunkered down on its haunches when menaced by the wolves and fended them off without moving.  When they gave up, he would return to his stroll unperturbed.

‘Are you a hedgehog or a fox?’

He continued: The fox is a cunning creature, able to devise a myriad of complex strategies for sneak attacks upon the hedgehog. Day in and day out, the fox circles around the hedgehog’s den, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce. Fast, sleek, beautiful, fleet of foot, and crafty-the fox looks like the sure winner.

The hedgehog, on the other hand, is a dowdier creature, looking like a genetic mix-up between a porcupine and a small armadillo. He waddles along, going about his simple day, searching for lunch and taking care of his home.

The fox waits in cunning silence at the juncture in the trail. The hedgehog, minding his own business, wanders right into the path of the fox. “Aha, I’ve got you now!” thinks the fox. He leaps out, bounding across the ground, lightning fast.

The little hedgehog, sensing danger, looks up and thinks, “Here we go again. Will he ever learn?” Rolling up into a perfect little ball, the hedgehog becomes a sphere of sharp spikes, pointing outward in all directions. The fox, bounding toward his prey, sees the hedgehog defense and calls off the attack.

Retreating back to the forest, the fox begins to calculate a new line of attack. Each day, some version of this battle between the hedgehog and the fox takes place, and despite the greater cunning of the fox, the hedgehog always wins.

Foxes pursue many ends at the same time and see the world in all its complexity. They are “scattered or diffused, moving on many levels, and never integrating their thinking into one overall concept or unifying vision.

Hedgehogs, on the other hand, simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything. It doesn’t matter how complex the world, a hedgehog reduces all challenges and dilemmas to simple-indeed almost simplistic-hedgehog ideas. For a hedgehog, anything that does not somehow relate to the hedgehog idea holds no relevance.

What does all this talk about hedgehogs and foxes have to do with good to great? Everything.

Those who built the good-to-great companies were, to one degree or another, hedgehogs. They used their hedgehog nature to drive toward what we came to call a Hedgehog Concept for their companies. Those who led the comparison companies tended to be foxes, never gaining the clarifying advantage of a Hedgehog Concept, being instead scattered, diffused, and inconsistent.

People are similarly divided into foxes and hedgehogs. But it is the hedgehogs that make the biggest impression because they simplify the complex into a single, simple unifying idea. Think of Karl Marx and class struggle, Charles Darwin and natural selection, These are people who have looked at a complex world and found a way of simplifying it. They are hedgehogs.

A Hedgehog Concept for yourself consists of three things.

  • What you can be the best in the world at Think of this as you doing work using your God Given Talent  Your thoughts to yourself are:  ”I was born to be doing this’
  • What drives your economic engine. Cash flow,  you are well paid for what you do.  You say “I can’t believe I get paid to do this, I love this so much”
  • What you are deeply passionate about. Focus on activities that ignited your passion, you are passionate about your work.  ”I look forward to going to work everyday, I’m believe in what I am doing and can’t wait to get started each day.”

To have a fully developed Hedgehog Concept, you need all three. If you make a lot of money doing things at which you could never be the best, you’ll only build a successful company, not a great one. If you become the best at something, you’ll never remain on top if you don’t have intrinsic passion for what you are doing. Finally, you can be passionate all you want, but if you can’t be the best at it or it doesn’t make economic sense, then you might have a lot of fun, but you won’t produce great results.

Excerpts from Good to Great, by Jim Collins and from



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Five Ingredients of Personal Growth

Five Ingredients of Personal Growth

Posted on 17. May, 2011 by Julia Mitchell.

Five ingredients of personal growth

As any farmer knows, the growth of a crop only happens when the right ingredients are present. To harvest plentiful fields, the farmer has to begin by planting the right seed in rich topsoil where sunlight and water can help the seed to sprout, mature, and bear fruit. If any of the ingredients (seeds, topsoil, sunlight, or water) are missing, the crop won’t grow.

Growing as a leader also requires the proper ingredients. Unless the right attitudes and actions are cultivated an aspiring leader will sputter and fail rather than growing in influence. Let’s look at five basic qualities essential for growth in leadership.

1. Teachability

Arrogance crowds out room for improvement. That’s why humility is the starting point for personal growth. As Erwin G. Hall said, ‘An open mind is the beginning of self-discovery and growth. We can’t learn anything new until we can admit that we don’t already know everything.’

Adopting a beginner’s mindset helps you to be teachable. Beginners are aware that they don’t know it all, and they proceed accordingly. As a general rule, they’re open and humble, noticeably lacking in the rigidity that often accompanies experience and achievement. It’s easy enough to have a beginner’s mind when you’re actually a beginner, but maintaining teachability gets trickier in the long term especially when you’ve already achieved some degree of success.

2. Sacrifice

Growth as a leader involves temporary loss. It may mean giving up familiar but limiting patterns, safe but unrewarding work, values no longer believed in, or relationships that have lost their meaning. Whatever the case, everything we gain in life comes as a result of sacrificing something else. We must give up to go up.

3. Security

To keep learning throughout life, you have to be willing, no matter what your position is, to say, ‘I don’t know.’ It can be hard for executives to admit lacking knowledge because they feel as if everyone is looking to them for direction, and they don’t want to let people down their people. However, followers aren’t searching for perfection in their leaders. They’re looking for an honest, authentic, and courageous leader who, regardless of the obstacles facing the organization, won’t rest until the problem is solved.

It took me seven years to hit my stride as a communicator. During those seven years I gave some boring speeches, and I felt discouraged at times. However, I was secure enough to keep taking the stage and honing my communication skills until I could connect with an audience. Had I been insecure, then the negative evaluations of others would have sealed my fate and I never would have excelled in my career.

4. Listening

Listen, learn, and ask questions from somebody successful who has gone on before you. Borrow from their experiences so that you can avoid their mistakes and emulate their triumphs. Solicit feedback and take to heart what you’re told. The criticism of friends may seem bitter in the short-term but, when heeded; it can save you from falling victim to your blind spots.

5. Application

Knowledge has a limited shelf life. Unless used immediately or carefully preserved, it spoils and becomes worthless. Put the lessons you learn into practice so that your insights mature into understanding.

Written by John C. Maxwell

John C. Maxwell is an internationally respected leadership expert, speaker and author who has sold more than 19 million books. Dr. Maxwell is the founder of EQUIP, a non-profit organization that has trained more than 5 million leaders in 126 countries worldwide. Each year he speaks to the leaders of diverse organizations, such as Fortune 500 companies, foreign governments, the National Football League, the United States Military Academy at West Point, and the United Nations. A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Business Week best-selling author, he has written three books that have sold more than a million copies: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Developing the Leader Within You and The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader. To read more and learn about the work of John C. Maxwell please visit . . . John C. Maxwell on Leadership >>>

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Now he can See

Now he can See

Posted on 06. May, 2011 by Julia Mitchell.

Throughout our lifetime, we will face many challenges. How we meet these challenges determines our character. I am reminded of a story about a young man who played, or should I say practiced, American football at a prestigious university. This player was not very skilled and was never allowed to play; yet, he was loyal, never missing a practice.

His name was Jerry and his coach, who was deeply impressed with Jerry’s loyalty and dedication to his team, also marvelled at his extreme devotion to his father. Several times the coach had seen Jerry and his father laughing and talking as they walked arm in arm around the campus. The coach had never met the father or talked to the boy about him.

One day, on a night before an important game, the boy knocked on the coach’s door and asked, ‘Coach, my father just passed away. Would it be okay if I missed practice for the next few days to go home for the funeral and visit my mother?’

‘Yes,’ the coach said and watched the boy walk away, full of sadness.

A few days later, the boy once again knocked on the coach’s door and asked, ‘Coach, I’d like a favour, could I start the game tomorrow in honour of my father.’

The coach, impressed with the young man’s dedication agreed, then worried the entire night, as this was an important game for the team. The boy had never played before and his skill level was not quite as good as other team members. However, the coach had promised and the young man went into the game on the very first play.

‘Oh, no!’ the coach groaned as the opening kickoff floated to this young boy. The coach expected the worst, but surprisingly, the young boy grabbed the ball and ran several yards until he was finally tackled. Impressed, the coach kept him in for the next play. When the quarterback handed him the ball, he was able to gain 20 yards. During the next play, the quarterback again handed him the ball and he went for another 20 yards.

Finally, a few plays later, the young man went over the goal line and scored a touchdown. Everyone, including the coach, was stunned. Amazingly, the young boy continued at this pace for the entire game, running for many yards and intercepting a pass on defence to help his team with the game. After the game was over and his team had won, the coach asked Jerry, ‘Son, what happened out there? You can’t play as well as you did, you’re not that fast and you’re not that strong.’

The boy looked at the coach and said softly, ‘You see, coach, my father was blind and this is the first game he ever saw me play.’

Author Unknown

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