Life Lessons: Five Leadership lessons from Badgers

BBadger 3badger_adgers are short legged omnivores of the weasel family. They have short fat bodies as well as short legs for digging. They may grow as long as 0.75 metres and weigh about 18 kilograms. Their most distinctive feature is perhaps the white stripe that runs the entire length of their bodies. Badgers tend to feed at night and they live in burrows called Setts. Badgers can be found all over the world even as far as Scandinavia and the Arabian desert.

  This animal is so unique, that it is mentioned in the bible (see Proverbs 31:26), as been exceedingly wise. Here are five lessons that leaders can learn from badgers.


A badger is vicious and hardy enough to fight off predators like bears and wolves, yet it is so shy that it hunts mostly at night

For a creature that is less than a metre long and weighs less than twenty kilograms, having enough strength to fight off a wolf or bear is very unusual. Leadership comes with so much power and with that amount of power comes a huge amount of responsibility. Part of that responsibility is knowing when to display the power and when not to.  A good leader should learn not to always lord his power over his followers or use them for his own whims and caprices simply because he can. Aggression implies immaturity and loss of control and a leader who uses his power aggressively will quickly lose his respect and create an atmosphere of fear and blame, thereby reducing the productivity of his followers and creating a group of people who would start looking for ways to undermine his authority. However just as the badger often uses its viciousness and hardiness to defend itself, so also must leaders learn how to use their power to benefit themselves and their followers. Every leader should always bear in mind that power is meant to be used for assertion not aggression.

Badgers pass their Setts (burrows) from one generation to another, Setts that are centuries old are not uncommon

A good leader must not just be concerned about now; he must also take care to plan for the future. What would determine if a leader will be successful or not is his vision, his ability to join the dots to create a pattern. What makes organizations great is the ability of their leaders to sense the emerging trends in whatever niche that organization is, and adjust appropriately in order to take advantage of those trends. Every leader who has the interests of his organization or his followers at heart must not just have a plan for his own time as leader; he must also create a succession plan, because as the Chinese proverb goes “a person who does not worry about the future will shortly have to worry about the present.” The badger is an object lesson in long term planning, every leader’s era will pass into history, what will make a leader immortal is the legacy he leaves behind

Badgers mostly eat plants and small animals but will eat poisonous snakes and carrion when food is scarce

The world that will live in today has become a global village. A downside of this is the fact that we are now more likely to be affected by the actions of our fellow human beings than ever. Leadership is a huge responsibility and every moment a leader has to tackle challenges and hostile situations. Badgers can be found all over the world simply because of this ability to make the most out of their environment. The leader that will succeed must learn to think on his feet, to be flexible and innovative. A good leader like a good sailor knows that the winds are never going to be fair every time, in fact most of the time he would have to face storms and hurricanes. What would determine whether the leader would guide his ship safely to shore or would lose it to the ocean is the ability of such a leader to use his innovation to get the best of the situation he finds himself. Just like the Badger would risk being bitten to attack a poisonous rattlesnake, so must a leader be prepared to take risks to create a favourable outcome from an unfavourable situation. As Bruce Lee says: “be like water making its way through cracks, do not be rigid, but adjust to the object and you shall find a way around or through it…”

  Coyotes eat what badgers eat, they even prey on badgers sometimes, but a badger will hunt with even a coyote when food is scarce

Normally coyotes and badgers are like cat and mouse, but they have often been found cooperating in order to catch food. This is the ultimate form of cooperation that can be found anywhere. A leader should be prepared to work with anybody in order to achieve maximum benefit for his organization. As the maxim often quoted by politicians goes: “in politics there are no permanent friends or enemies, there are only permanent interests.”  A leader should learn to attack issues and not persons, because as it is often said, “every dog has its day” no matter how much a leader knows, he cannot know everything, and the thing you need most to execute a particular plan may be in the hands of the man you have alienated. Therefore one thing that a leader must learn is the ability to separate his personal feelings from his organization’s needs. If what your organization needs is for you to work with the person whose personality irks you, then you must be prepared to lay your personal differences aside and work with the person.

A badger will move up to a tonne of sand while digging its burrow

For an animal that weighs less than twenty kilograms, moving nearly twenty times its own body weight in sand is extremely grueling work. But a badger is dedicated enough to do it. persistence is an attribute that the badger is known for. Every leader must know that leadership is not an opportunity to rest and do nothing; it is even a time to do even harder work and be even more persistent. A good leader must be prepared to work as hard as if not even harder than his followers. Jesus Christ’s disciples once asked him who among them who would be the leader after his exit the reply that he gave them was that the person that would lead would become as the lowliest of servants. A good leader should never give any of his followers work, that he is not prepared to do himself, because the best form of leadership is leading by example.

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