What Mythical Mermaids Teach Us About Leadership
I’ve had many experiences with mermaids.
While I may not have encountered them in the depths of the ocean, they landed on the shores of my personal life many years ago.
See, my daughter, ever since she was little, found herself entranced by fantasy worlds. She read stories, watched movies, and her incredibly artistic fingers endlessly sketched them (and fairies and hobbits and other mythical beings!). Those early passions stayed with her right through graduate school. Though she dabbles in oil paintings, watercolors, ceramics, and more, she also has a real focus on digital illustration for kids. Part of that has her running a business dedicated to all things mermaid. She has created whimsical merchandise that you can check out here. Also, if you love poetry, check out her free webtoon “Heart Sleeves.”
As I am constantly thinking about leadership, I thought it would be fun to show you how mermaids can teach all of us to be better leaders.
(I often say leadership lessons are all around us. And I was also challenged to see if I could write about leadership in literally any context, and this one in particular! Tell me how I did.)
7 Leadership Lessons
Dive deep into the depths of the ocean and you may encounter a mermaid. If you’re lucky. If things happen perfectly.
With their flowing hair, beautiful singing voices, and tales (pun intended!) of adventures, mermaids have much to offer when it comes to lessons on leadership.
Cultivate adaptability during constant change
Mermaids are legendary for their ability to navigate both the oceanic depths and coastal realms. Much like a leader, they show us that to be successful, one must be able to adapt to changing circumstances and environments. The mermaid’s dual life – in the vastness of the ocean and on the sunlit shores – embodies the adaptability that a good leader must possess.
Develop the power of a strong voice
Remember Ariel, the little mermaid? Her voice wasn’t just beautiful; it was her essence, her strength. Great leaders also have a voice that resonates. It carries vision and hope. Leadership isn’t just about speaking. It’s about being heard, understood, and followed.
Maintain curiosity and a strong desire to learn
Ariel’s fascination with the human world wasn’t just a flight of fancy. It was the mermaid’s trait of being ever-curious. Good leaders remain lifelong learners. They are never content with the status quo, always looking beyond, always seeking to know more. Learning new things and exploring new worlds are critical to leadership.
Understand the natural ebb and flow
The ocean’s tide, consistent in its patterns, teaches us about the ups and downs of life and business cycles. Mermaids understand this rhythm intimately. Leaders, too, recognize that success isn’t a straight upward trajectory. There will be high tides and low tides, and it’s all a part of the journey.
Build a strong community
Mermaids are often portrayed as part of a larger community. The underwater kingdoms, their families, and the friendships they forge (like Disney’s Flounder and Sebastian) signify the importance of relationships and community. Leaders understand that they’re only as strong as the team behind them.
Face challenges with courage
Whether it’s evading sea witches or exploring unknown territories, mermaids face their fears head-on. True leadership requires courage – the courage to take risks, make tough decisions, and venture into uncharted waters.
Transform yourself and others around you
Perhaps the most iconic scene from Disney’s version of ‘The Little Mermaid’ is Ariel’s transformation. This metamorphosis isn’t just physical; it represents growth, sacrifice, and evolution. Every great leader undergoes transformations, learning from experiences and emerging stronger and wiser. Great leaders also help others become the best version of themselves.
So think of the mermaids…beneath the waves and how they can teach us to be better leaders. And the next time you’re at the beach, think of the mermaid’s lessons. Because, after all, who says you need to have fins to lead like a mermaid?
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