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What do the words: flamboyance, mess, and colony all have in common?

Eight days in the Galápagos Islands will fill you with an appreciation for our environment, the perseverance of explorers, and the beauty of many different species. Some of my greatest highlights were being up close and personal amidst the harmonious way in which animals exist together in groups on land and in water as seemingly equitable, team working peers - many of which have telling names that exude their group culture. These encounters underscore how important group identity and culture is when attracting and retaining loyalty, growing and ensuring team alignment.

The shiver of sharks that outnumbered and encircled us while we explored underwater. The group title ‘shiver’ clearly aligned with how they made me feel! Swimming amidst them confirmed why they’re so respected as they worked together to identify us, evoke in us a shiver of fear, and then swim away once they realize we are not a threat.

The flamboyance of flamingos worked together to identify food sources, attracting each other’s attention with their stylish flights over the pond and landings at the next dining site. And flamboyant they were with their bright pink stature, drawing me to want to model their grace and colorful personality.

The mess of iguanas demonstrated their cooperation among divets and holes through which they hollow out homes in the ground. They made a mess of the land, but did so to ensure housing for their extended community.

The colony of penguins charting the farthest north of any of its species… the raft of sea lions that lounge and play in the waves… the creep of tortoises who we watched slowly graze around land.

What would teams I’ve led be named if it was to be synonymous with how we are perceived or the experience provided? I think about some of my best and worst team engagements and whether I’d be proud of the group identity… Here they are:

The Puzzle: When leading a team focused on building a strategy for 5G connected vehicles, I think we were a ‘puzzle’ - working to figure out how the network, automotive, driver, infrastructure, and business pieces fit together to create a seamless picture

The Compass: While leading a team focused on establishing a culture of innovation in an entrenched company, we perhaps were a ‘compass’ - providing navigational direction to a new corporate frontier

The Treadmill: Then there are times where I think I’ve led a ‘treadmill’ of executives - trying to run faster and faster but never changing direction or arriving anywhere new… or perhaps the time I unknowingly found myself in a team best described as ‘apostates’ - never working as a team, just as individuals always putting themselves first.

The animals of the Galápagos serve as a strong reminder that in leadership, the terms we use to describe ourselves are evocative of the culture and identity we create. Alignment to and within that identity are essential to not just existing, but collaboratively thriving. Whenever I engage a team moving forward, I want our collective noun to represent the positive teamwork and ethos of high-performing, empowered, and intellectually curious leaders in our environment.

And since I’m a #dc-girl, I have to point out that my favorite birds in the Galápagos - the Blue Footed boobies - are collectively called a congress. hmm…

What is your collective noun for your #leadership style?

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