Five Leadership Lessons I learnt from the Lemurs of Madagascar.

Make of it what you will, one of my favorite shows on TV, is the Nickelodeon and DreamWorks animated series The Penguins of Madagascar. I like the show so much that an older cousin once  asked me, “Bayo, but why do you watch these kind of shows? Do they even make sense to you?”
So folks this is to show my cousin and others like her, who think people like me, who watch animated movies are childish. People who think that because a film is animated and admittedly meant for a younger demographic, does not mean it does not have lessons leadership lessons to teach. As the title  suggests, the focus is always on the penguins, but, I unexpectedly learned leadership lesson from another set of characters on the show, the Penguins’ habitat neighbors the lemurs. So  the following are the five lessons I learned from watching King Julien II, the Ringtailed Lemur,  Maurice the Aye Aye  and Mort the Mouse Lemur.


1. The brashest loudest person on the team isn’t always the smartest
At first sight, because he is the one that does most of the talking, gives most of the orders and initiaties the lemurs’ plans, one would think King Julien or “Ringtail” as Skipper calls him, is the smartest and the remaining two are just his simple minded lackeys, but a closer examination reveals that Maurice the Aye Aye is much smarter than Julien is, and he is the one that gets things organized in the lemur habitat, take Maurice out of the picture and the whole Lemur habitat becomes a mess, as it was discovered in  the episode where Maurice goes off on a mission with the penguins, or another episode where King Julien exiles Maurice and Mort for breaking his throne. Sometimes the pushy, loud, smooth and suave guy is just a distraction from the real person in the background that keeps the organization ticking, learn to tell the mouth and the brain apart.


2. Leadership is more more appearance, bluff and bravado than brains
Anytime I talk about this point, I like to give the example of Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo. You may question his morals, but you can’t argue that he knows how to surround himself with smart people. Obasanjo is no rocket scientist, but I could mention the “rocket scientists” like Ngozi Okonjo Iweala , Oby Ezekwesili, Dora Akunyili, Nasir El-Rufai  among others whom he invited to work with him. They like Maurice handled the “Rocket Science” of running the country, while he like  King Julien handled the  general giving of orders, and being the face of the whole operations, a leader who is afraid of people who are smarter than him  is going to have problems (This is not a sub I swear.). The thing with “Rocket Scientists” is that most of them know their limits like Maurice and will likely not drag the spotlight with you unless you let them straight up intimidate you( this is also not a sub I swear).

3. Everyone has something He is useful for
So far, in the piece I have not  talked about Mort, the simple minded Mouse Lemur, who is content and in fact revels in  his position as object of Julien’s abuse. The way King Julien treats Mort is unfortunately exactly the way leaders the world over treat their follower (but that’s talk for another article). But then even he (Mort) has his usefulness. As Robert Greene’s 34th Law of Power mentions, Jullien cannot do certain things that are considered mundane, so as not to lose respect, Maurice is busy organizing stuff on a “grand scale” so it falls on Mort, the Lemur with no sense of pride or dignity to do the “dirty work” the stuff King Jullien and Maurice feel too important to do, but which would make their lives miserable if nobody is around to do them. So when dealing with organizations recognize the fact that that the Janitor or the Cleaner might not be as smart/educated as the CEO or earn the CEO’s salary, He/she is just about as important as the CEO, because the CEO would surely suffer if the Cleaner does not do his/her job properly

4. Teams seem to perform best when the smartest  person is not the leader.
When I started watching the series, One of the questions that kept bothering me was “If Maurice knows He is smarter than Julien, why then does he not overthrow Julien and take charge?” As the show went on I got answers, No matter how humble or earthy a leader tries to be, his job is not to see everything, that is why he must look for followers who are smarter than him so as to get expert opinions in all the areas his leadership covers. An organization where the person in charge is the one that brings all the good ideas is not likely to live long. Besides the mix of brash posturing, confident swagger, and narcissism that makes a good leader able to control his followers, does not often allow said leader to see good ideas that are not centered around him. Every team needs someone to execute the orders and cover everything the leader may have missed, and that person should not be the leader.

5. Every Leader should be a certain level of asshole.
The core of what I will put here is already written in every “Why Women Love Bad Men” and “Nice Guys Finish Last” post ever. I agree that posts like that are not often totally applicable to life. But looking at the relationship between the Lemurs and the Penguins, one sees why the Lemurs need a jerkface, narcissist like King Julien in charge and not a smart nice guy like Maurice. The Penguins themselves are not exactly angels ( Private’s cuteness notwithstanding). They (the Penguins) are always looking to exploit all the other animals in the zoo, because they think they are smarter than everyone else. Thus it is someone like Jullien who can checkmate the other animals and prevent the Lemurs from being run roughshod over. It strangely is a great insight into why people like Vladimir Putin, Robert Mugabe, Bashar Al-Asad, and that North Korean dude, Kim whatever, are leaders of their respective countries.


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