On October 4th, 1997, a group of whale watchers chartered a boat out of San Francisco in hopes of seeing grey or sperm whales.  After departing, the boat’s captain was notified two killer whales were spotted at the Farallon Islands about 20 miles off the coast.  Orcas are rarely seen at the Farallons so with great anticipation they immediately changed their course.

Every fall, thousands of great white sharks also descend on the Farallons to hunt seals.  They are the apex predators in this area.  With it being October, this was shark season.

Upon arriving at the location, the whale watchers received a thrill as they witnessed the two killer whales playfully swimming.  Suddenly, one of the passengers noticed a large dark shape swim by the boat.  She immediately knew it was a great white shark, the supposed top predator of the sea.  A passenger with a video camera captured what happened next.

One of the killer whales attacked the great white killing it with relative ease.  This shocking event was later turned into a one-hour National Geographic documentary entitled “The Whale That Ate Jaws” shown above.  As I watched the special this past Friday evening, they made an interesting observation later in the show.

Experts felt the shark was surprised by the attack.  After all, great whites are never attacked.  Everyone and everything moves out of its way.  The killer whale struck the complacent super-fish with such force it immobilized it.  The orca then grabbed the shark in its massive jaws killing the fish.  Orca had easily defeated Jaws.

This event teaches 5 Harsh Lessons All Successful Leaders Should Know:

  1. Steward Your Influence Responsibly – Notoriety and a large platform are both perks and privileges of successful leadership.  So steward your influence well.  When a leader is taken out, when a leader falls, when a leader fails, it is shocking and newsworthy.
  2. Successful Leaders Are Humble Leaders – The great white never dreamed it was in danger.  It was entitled and complacent.  It thought it was it was the biggest, badder animal in the ocean.  It was wrong.  If you feel you are bigger and badder than anyone else in your organization, if you feel you are untouchable, if you feel you can never be fired or replaced, you are wrong as well.  Leaders are never as great as they think they are.
  3. Successful Leaders Stay On Guard –   A healthy sense of paranoia results in sustainability as a leader.  Danger is always lurking.  The great white never saw the orca coming. One of the worst things to hear a leader say is, “I never saw that coming.”  Smart leaders build in accountability and safe guards.  They do not trust themselves.
  4. Your Demise Can Be Swift – The great white was killed in moments.  For leaders, we are all one decision away from losing our influence.
  5. Fallen Leaders Often End Up All Alone – National Geographic theorizes that sharks release a neurotoxin when they are killed.  In essence, this creates a warning signal allowing all other sharks to escape.  When the great white was killed, it was estimated over 1,000 other sharks immediately departed the area.  When a leader falls, there is often little to any other people there to support them.  They all run for cover and self-preseveration.
  6. Even Successful Leadership Is Temporary – We will all eventually be replaced.  All leadership is temporary.  Our tenure as leaders will one day conclude.  So once again, steward it well while you have it.

What is one thing you learned from this video and post?


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