Cindy Novotny

The Comeback of Wolves!


The revered (and sometimes reviled) gray wolf has made an unprecedented resurgence within Yellowstone National Park, and I couldn’t be happier.  I have always loved wolves and even as a person who owns a farm and is concerned with livestock – I love the stamina of a wolf.  In many cases, I relate to this animal as I too find that we all make comebacks and when we do, we are stronger than ever.

Some people like me cherish the wolf as a symbol of strength in the wilderness, while others I know rage against them as they prey on their cattle, but in the end there is no one who is not mesmerized by the beauty of the wolf.

Since the wolf restoration project in Yellowstone, wolf watchers trek across Yellowstone looking to spot their favorite pack of animals.  Wolf watching in Yellowstone is an economy worth an estimated $35 million/year.  Now that is great tourism!

In the 1880’s, Teddy Roosevelt who was known for being a top conservation president in American history wanted to rid the land of wolves.  He grew up on a ranch, lived in a saddle and thought the wolves were beasts of desolation who killed his cattle and ruined the land.  Even in the wildlife park of Yellowstone they were unwelcome.  It is said that rangers in Yellowstone shot the last wolf in 1926.

Wolves have never been as big a danger to humans as other animals - in fact grizzly bears and cougars are far more dangerous to campers and hikers than wolves.  But that was then and this is now.  In 1973 the Endangered Species Act was implemented and the gray wolf was now protected. 

So now the business lesson from wolves:

Sharing the Work!

Every member of the pack does not want to be the leader (or boss), but each wolf takes a share in the leadership responsibilities where necessary. During a difficult journey in the snow for example, the pack leader starts as the trailblazer, but then other pack members take turns to lead, allowing the former leader to rest.  This is how a real team should work - with loyalty to the end.

Wolf pups are trained from an early age to assume their part in the leadership of the pack, because their life depends on it.  This is the same in high performing organizations and families.  Team members of any organization or family must be prepared not only to carry their own load but also to assume greater leadership at any time. The success of the team depends on it. 

Wolves have the attitude that everything they do is based on what is best for the pack.  I don’t believe that 100% of the time, every single person on my team would think like that.  There are those who definitely think about what is best for MCA but there are those who think about themselves first.  This type of person won’t last long in the pack or on my team.  A wolf pack member "understands his/her role and understands exactly what the pack expects of them".  In business this should be the same. 

Successful teams have the right perspective and right attitude, and it is obvious when it is not a good fit.  There is a delicate balance between ‘pack mentality’ and allowing individual contribution.  No matter how small or large the organization is, each person should contribute to making the organization better.

Perseverance and purpose:

Wolf packs have only a one in 10 success rate when hunting but when a hunt fails, they don't brood, they get on with the next hunt and the lessons learned from their mistakes become part of the wolf's collective knowledge base.

We need to be more like wolves when it comes to disappointment and conflict.  Learn from your mistakes and get on with it. 

Last but not least is something dear to my heart – Training and Loyalty!

Wolf pack elders constantly teach and mentor the younger wolves and all members of the pack take a role in training the young.  Remember the young is the future.  When a pack loses an older member, their role can be quickly filled by another wolf – their succession planning is beyond impressive.  As mentioned earlier, they are loyal to the end and truly have each other’s back – do you?