A Leadership Allegory – One Lone Llama

On June 1, 2011, in Blog, Leadership, by Christine Glasco

This is how it happened.

We were following GPS directions while driving from Dallas to Durant, Oklahoma.  We were on time and looking forward to attending a special concert.  Then we hit a major snag – a Memorial Day holiday bumper-to-bumper traffic jam!

We could stay on course or we could take a risk and try a new route.

Had I been alone, I probably would have stayed on the known road.  My husband is an adventurous soul, so he turned off onto the back roads of northern Texas.

We drove from one, two-lane twisting, winding road to another and then the GPS suddenly became silent (I imagined the GPS thinking: “where the heck is he going?”).

We passed lovely farmland, huge blue-green lakes and picturesque ranches. At one of the ranches, there were a number of beautiful horses doing whatever horses do in the early evening – and then I noticed one lone Llama.

For a long second, it seemed to me that our eyes met and I actually felt the Llama’s aloneness. This became a memory snapshot moment.

I imagined that the Llama was probably ‘brought in’ by the ranch CEO/owner as a means for change and organization transformation or to launch an innovation, a new revenue stream, a new product, or to provide a new branding focus. 

I thought that there were stark differences between the comfort level of the horses in this organizational  environment and that of the new llama.  Additionally, there were numerous onboarding issues the lone Llama would have to manage. 

The organizational environment:

  • the Llama stood alone, while the horses were standing in groups seemingly communicating and sharing a moment of respite at the end of a long day
  • the Llama needed to find opportunities to show an early ROI; the horses, if they thought about their value at all, were confidant of their place in the ranch hierarchy
  • the Llama had to contemplate the circumstance of being different from the rest of the ranch animals; the horses were part of a long-standing community and were conditioned to do things in a certain way
  • the Llama needed to immediately work on KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and begin to develop a scorecard; the horses immediately needed to finish the evening meal and have a snack before lights out
  • the Llama seemed noble, unafraid but on alert; the horses were comfortable in their space and were unaware of any need for change
  • the Llama has to execute complex performance improvement programs and imbed these programs into the daily fabric of ranch life; the horses just have to be horses

A question for you to consider:

  • Are you a lone Llama among horses?

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Christine M. Glasco consults to company executives, business owners and non-profit leaders on strategic leadership and career management/career transformation solutions. For a complimentary copy of Five Tips to Transform Your Executive Career to help you be more effective in your career, go to www.christineglasco.com

Email: info@christineglasco.com Phone: 1.940.367.0837

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2 Responses to A Leadership Allegory – One Lone Llama

  1. Having grown up on a farm in Nebraska, I would ask a few more questions.

    Why did the ranch CEO/Owner bring in the Llama? — If he is starting a new line of revenue a single llama won’t get the job done. Even Noah knew you needed at least two, each of a different gender, to get the job done.

    Perhaps he is interested in llama steaks and is just waiting for the right moment to unveil this goal to the sole llama.

    Maybe the llama is supposed to be an influencer for the horses, showing them how to do something the llama has mastered.

    Or the llama is being isolated from other llamas while he recovers from some exotic llama disease or injury.

    And just maybe the real reason might just be that the rancher saw a llama and wanted one.

    May be should be asking “What did the llama want?” Companionship? Comfortable life? Notoriety? A chance to make a difference?

    The lesson in all this seems to be that if you are a llama and the rancher brings you into a field where there are only horses you need to have a pretty good understanding of why you are there or you will spend a good deal of time waiting for the next car to come along so you can lock eyes with the passenger to express you loneliness and hope they will stop and rescue you into a world where you will understand and accept:
    • What’s in it for me?
    • What is expected of me?
    • Do I belong here?
    • How am I going to grow by being here?

    How many llamas in your world need rescuing?

    Tom Samson

  2. Tom, great questions. The ranch owner’s reasons for bringing in the Llama and the Llama’s reasons for ‘joining’ the ranch would be interesting to know. I should ask you to write Part 2 and Part 3 of this post from those two perspectives!

    The questions for the ranch owner and the Llama are questions that need to be answered prior to the Llama ‘joining’ the ranch. Maybe the Llama should have joined the Circus.

    Thanks for providing different perspectives.

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