Flamboyant Leadership

by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Photo by Author

Have you ever seen a flamboyant cuttlefish? If not, don’t feel bad. Very few people have. In fact, very few people know what a “flamboyant” is or care to see one. This is understandable. Flamboyants aren’t common and generally you need to be a diver to see one. There aren’t many flamboyants in aquariums and they aren’t common. In fact, people travel half-way ‘round the world to see these amazing creatures in the waters surrounding Indonesia, Malaysia, and, of course, the Philippines!

I’d heard fellow divers discuss these amazing creatures. Colorful. Dynamic. Mesmerizing. Sounded good to me. I was hooked. We even joked that the board shorts that I normally dive in were somewhat like the flamboyant. Loud, crazy colors! Cool! I decided right away that I like the flamboyant. Every diver has their favorite “thing.” For some it’s a type of coral. For some it’s a small animal (macro) like a nudi (nudibranch). For some it’s large pelagics like sharks. For me, it’s all the above. I’m greedy! But really, the three “things” I’ve been most mesmerized by in the water are turtles (even if they’re common), thresher sharks, and flamboyants.

God created an abundance of marine life in the Philippines. Local divers don’t have to travel half-way ‘round the world to see amazing creatures. They’re right here beneath our noses. We have everything from nudis to whale sharks to hairy shrimp to frog fish to thresher sharks to flamboyants (turtles too!). When I’m not working or going to church or helping in the community or hanging out with my family, I’m in the water. As a former Junior Olympic swimmer, surfer, and lifeguard, I’ve spent a lot of time in the water. I love it and I’m glad God covered most of the earth with it!

A couple months ago, I saw my first flamboyant. It was small AND amazing! It had incredible colors. Not just amazing colors, but changing colors. Like the neon lights in Las Vegas. Fast and pulsating! I was in awe. … Recently, I saw another flamboyant. It was a bit bigger but still a juvenile. And yes, it was amazing!

I spent 30 minutes of the 90 minute dive watching this amazing creature and taking pictures. I couldn’t keep my eyes off it. The colorful display is a warning signal. It clearly knew I was close (within inches) and was warning me not to get any closer. Minute by minute I watched as it moved around, walking and half-swimming. As my tank ran low on air and I ascended, I thought about doing my second dive at the same location. I would have immediately spent another 90 minutes watching this amazing creation. In the end, I moved on to another site and gave the little flamboyant some rest from my watchful eyes and the bright flash of my camera.

On the boat, between dives, I thought about this colorful little animal and its changing colors. While I find the flamboyant fascinating, I realized that, as a leader, it’s important for me not to emulate this same color-changing behavior.

As a leader, it’s important to remain steady, steadfast, consistent. We can’t change our colors just because it’s politically expedient to do so. We can’t change our colors because of who just walked in the room. We can’t change our colors just because we’re in the minority.

World-class leaders are flexible and consider their audience and surroundings. They’re sensitive and open-minded, but they don’t change colors like the flamboyants. The values and belief they have provide a solid foundation for strong, steady leadership. These leaders can be counted on to remain strong in the face of opposition. Strong to their values. Strong to their faith. Strong to their stated beliefs.

How many “leaders” have you seen (personally or in the news) who have changed colors? While flamboyant cuttlefish are delightful, flamboyant leaders are dangerous.

Do you change colors or are you consistent and steadfast? Do others know they can count on you to remain strong in the midst of the storm? Do your values and beliefs keep you grounded and true during the dynamic storms of life? Or do you change colors based on who is in power, who is in the room, or who you’re trying to impress.

Be steady. The flamboyant cuttlefish has a reason to change colors frequently, we do not. World-class leadership requires a strong character and solid, foundational values that result in consistent leadership behavior regardless of the circumstance or audience.

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

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