I have lived and worked with the world’s top wildlife trackers since I was 19 years old. People such as Renas Mhlongo and Karel Benadie.
I have been richly blessed. These are special people with unique skills and attributes.
Their deeply embedded competence places them in a league of their own.
But its more than just skills which sets them apart. They also possess a special blend of attributes.
Human qualities, that in combination with their skills, have kept them at the top of their game.
And it’s been put to the test, in all corners of the world. With leopards and lions in Africa, grizzly bears in North America and pumas in the hostile sierras of Patagonia.
To track successfully, the tracker must discern physical evidence and interpret the animal’s behaviour. Renias and Karel do this exceptionally well. Consistently.
I spent time discussing these traits with Grant Ashfield (Leadership Works) and whether business people can also learn from the trackers.
Here’s what came out…
- They know what they are good at.
They play to their strengths. Karel for example is excellent at trailing over rough, broken ground. Renias is brilliant at anticipating an animal’s direction.
These strengths (talents) are a big advantage. It helps them to find the animal efficiently and with little wasted effort. Equally, they know what they are not good at.
- They love what they do.
The motivation is intrinsic. Being on the trail is work, but it’s work with meaning. They are happy and relaxed because they are doing what they are best at – what they love.
Their reward is not only finding the animal. The process itself simulates them. It’s where they express themselves. Thus they track when it’s hot and uncomfortable. This perseverance makes them more successful more often.
Richard Siwela spent 40 years tracking leopards at Londolozi
- They balance rational thought with creativity.
Trailing an elusive animal requires them to be both literal and imaginative. Competence with the detail and big-picture thinking is foundational to their mastery.
They zoom in and zoom out of these two modes effortlessly.
Engaging with the minutiae of the trail is vital. They combine physical evidence with the ever-changing information of the landscape. The environment influences the animal’s behaviour. This is creativity in action and is used to anticipate and leapfrog ahead.
- They are constantly learning
There is never a moment of ‘I’ve arrived’. Curiosity is a signature feature of their personality.
Despite their vast experience they have an intense desire to know and understand more. Growing their knowledge and skills is a habit.
Losing the track does not derail them. It represents a fresh opportunity to learn. It’s all part of the process. Amidst the uncertainty, they show calmness, common sense, and competence.
Renias Mhlongo’s energy and love for tracking has not subsided in four decades
- They radiate conviction and confidence
They are positive almost to a fault. Self-limiting beliefs about their ability to find the animal seldom gain traction. They simply believe they will be successful.
This is contagious. It inspires confidence in those (less experienced) tracking with them. Younger trackers learn from this. It strengthens their resilience and desire to keep going.
It also means that one feels safe with them even in unpredictable situations – when the animal shows aggression.
- They love teaching others.
Both Renias and Karel are patient and dedicated teachers. They are devoted to growing the next generation of wildlife trackers.
This is integral to their work. To ensure they are useful and economically active in their communities. This means growing skills, filling them with confidence and exposing them directly to opportunity.
- They are humble.
This is possibly their greatest attribute. The one that makes all the others possible. They are modest and unassuming.
Their tracking is not a demonstration designed to impress. They seldom allow their ego to dominate proceedings.
This also means they show compassion and empathy for their subject. They get ‘into the skin of the animal’. Their mindset is one of purpose, intention, and quiet determination.
Karel ‘Pokkie’ Benadie is the epitome of humble.
I am inspired by the lessons I’ve learned from expert trackers. I reflected on the value these provide for organisations in difficult times. Imagine the positive effect the tracker can have on people’s lives.
Are you on track?
Use these 10 questions to reflect on your journey so far:
- Do you know what you are good at?
- Do you understand what your special talent is and play to this strength?
- Do you love what you do?
- Does your reward come from doing the work or just achieving the goal?
- Can you connect the detail with the big picture…can you zoom in and out?
- Are you constantly learning?
- Do your words and actions inspire hope and confidence in others?
- Do people feel safe around you?
- Do you invest significant time and energy teaching the next generation?
- Do you have your ego in check?
We love hearing from you. Please comment on the post below. We’ll pick three responses and each person will receive a free copy of my and Renias’s new book, Changing a Leopards Spots