Leadership with a wolf’s philosophy

At Akela Partners we love the wolf. After all we named the company after a wolf. Akela is the tough old wise leader of the wolf pack from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. So, when I found this article on leadership by Rick Johnson I just had to share it. He articulates a great way to help create effective teams. 

Leadership with a Wolf Philosophy

by Dr. Rick Johnson

After studying the wolf and deciding to use the wolf as our company logo I believe that the wolf demonstrates a distinctive relationship to successful leadership in the world of business today. Wolves have leadership traits that should be envied by every leader out there in the business world today. Traits such as:

•    Strategy & Planning

•    Patience

•    Wolves Never quit

•    Insatiable Curiosity

•    Teamwork

•    Sense of Urgency

The wolf is a very social animal. They travel together, eat together, hunt together and play together. There are referred to as a pack. Just as management hierarchies vary in size, wolf packs vary in size but average five to six members. Does that sound like an executive team? Each pack member plays a specific role with a very specific rank. Some young wolfs go off on their own (Lone Wolves), in search of their status. Generally speaking, the older wolves in the pack tend to be the leaders and they command the respect of the pack. They make the decisions for the group. The pack protects itself and it protects one another.

Let’s examine the Wolf’s Leadership traits and what we can learn from them.

Strategy — Planning and Patience

Wolves understand that survival depends on a successful hunt. As a result, they do not practice panic response management that we as leaders sometimes demonstrate in a crisis. Wolves actually develop a plan working together to ensure that they capture and kill their prey. They are extremely patient and understand that success is not guaranteed and that a success rate of 100% is not realistic. Every wolf within the pack has a specific role and they are expected to live up to their responsibility.

There is evidence that wolves have some knowledge of proper prey management. L. David Mech a wolf expert found one pack in Minnesota that varied its killing by hunting in a different part of its territory each year, allowing prey numbers elsewhere to recover, aiding the long-term survival of the pack.

Wolves are very patient of themselves and of one another. They are very focused on their objective whatever it may be at the time. They respect each other’s role and depend that each wolf in the pack will live up to their individual responsibility. This in itself promotes group unity. Wolves are very careful that they do not enter into redundant duplicate efforts. Each wolf can be heard by the pack; a form of individual respect.

Wolves Don’t Quit —- Never Give UP

Winston Churchill’s famous words — “Never, never, never, give up” come to mind when thinking about how persistent wolves are in accomplishing their objectives. Wolves seem to understand that if you fail to succeed on the first attempt you must keep trying. It is understood within the pack that you never quit and it isn’t over until the “Lead Wolf” says it is over. That doesn’t mean that the wolves are successful 100% of the time but it does mean they never quit trying.

That’s a good philosophy. If they’re headed somewhere and you try to stop them, they’ll look for another way. They’ll climb over. They’ll climb under. They’ll climb around. They keep looking for another way to succeed.  The wolf always looks ahead, stays positive and does everything possible to succeed…

Insatiable Curiosity

One of the most common characteristics of the most successful leaders today is the extreme sense of curiosity. Wolves share this insatiable curiosity about the world around them. They investigate everything, taking nothing for granted. They seek out opportunity. They have established specific priorities.


Wolves understand the concept of teamwork extremely well. They must work together during the hunt to be successful. Each wolf has a role to play and all members respect their positions and follow their leadership in almost all things, the alpha wolves are usually the ones to make decisions for the pack when the group should go out to hunt or move from one place to another.

The other Pack Members all have positions in the hierarchy inferior to those of the Alpha male and female. The young adult wolves, who are the grown-up offspring of the Alpha pair, have their own special roles under the leadership of the Alpha male.

Some people have noticed that ravens circle in the air around sick deer or moose. The wolves’ notice the circling ravens and realize that prey is close by. This is a remarkable relationship because both animals benefit-the wolves find food and the ravens eat the leftovers!

Sense of Urgency

Wolves have a unique sense of urgency. They depend on one another. They are very focused hard workers when it comes to feeding themselves. They are one of the wilds most effective hunters and yet in spite of that they hunt to live. They do not live to hunt. They live by an unwritten code that says the good of the pack comes first.  How often do we uncover unsuccessful companies that are unsuccessful because the CEO or ownership put personal needs ahead of business needs?

Let me leave you with a story that I wish I knew who to give credit to. This is a simple message I found on the Internet that I believe we should all take to heart.

Two Wolves

One evening an old Cherokee Indian was talking to his Grandson. Trying to pass on wisdom he began explaining to the little boy that there is a battle that goes on inside everyone.

He said: “My son, the battle is between two wolves.”

“One is evil — it is ANGER, Jealousy, Sorrow, Regret, Greed, Arrogance, Self-pity, Guilt, Resentment, Inferiority, Lies, False Pride, Superiority and Ego.”

“The other is Good. It is Joy, Peace, Love, Hope, Serenity, Humility, Kindness, Benevolence, Generosity, Truth, Compassion and Faith.”

The boy thought for a minute and finally looked up at his Grandad and said:

“Grandpa — Which one of the wolves will win?”

The old Cherokee Indian replied with wisdom beyond the years of the young Grandson and said: