Unexpected Leadership Wisdom from the Elephant Kingdom

What Leadership Lessons Can We Learn from an Old Female Elephant?

What good is an old female elephant to her herd, especially one in her 60s and well-beyond her prime reproductive years? This was the question posed by an article written by Virginia Morell from science.org.

Well, believe it or not, in the elephant kingdom, the oldest female in the herd is always the leader!

The matriarch is actually the best leader and the one most capable of making wise decisions, according to a study of African elephants. Here are some of the reasons why:-

Matriarchal Majesty (Wisdom)

Picture her: the grand dame of the herd, tusks curved like ancient crescent moons. She doesn’t lead with brute force; instead, she weaves a tapestry of guidance. Her eyes, deep pools of knowing, survey the horizon. When she moves, the earth bows.

The matriarch’s leadership secret? Time-tested wisdom. She’s seen droughts and floods, births and farewells. Her memory spans decades, and she imparts her sagacity to the younger ones. They listen, for her footsteps echo the rhythm of survival.

Over the years, matriarchs develop a deep understanding of their herd’s dynamics, including social hierarchies, communication cues, and individual personalities. This wisdom enables them to anticipate potential conflicts, mediate disputes, and guide the herd towards resources such as water and food.

As leaders, do not underestimate any experience that you have gained in the past because they are now part of your inherent wisdom in guiding others.

Compassion Etched in Ivory (Empathy)

When an elder falls, the matriarch touches the sun-bleached bones. She remembers, honours, and mourns. Her compassion ripples through the herd, reminding them that life is fragile. Compassion isn’t weakness; it’s strength wrapped in empathy.

Matriarchs exhibit incredible empathy towards other members of the herd, particularly the young, injured, or vulnerable. They prioritize the well-being of the herd, ensuring that every member is cared for and protected from potential threats.

As leaders, compassion and empathy is key to building a team with a strong foundation of trust.

Whispers on the Breeze (Communication)

Elephants communicate in a symphony of vibrations. Their trunks, like ancient radio antennae, catch the whispers of distant herds. When danger approaches—a lurking lion or a treacherous river—the matriarch trumpets a warning. The herd converges, a fortress of gray hides.

Matriarchs possess excellent communication skills, using a combination of vocalizations, body language, and tactile signals to convey information to the herd. This effective communication fosters unity, cooperation, and coordination during various activities, such as migration, foraging, and defense against predators.

As leaders, listen keenly. The conversations around you carry insights, and sometimes, the softest murmur holds the solution.

Unbreakable Tusks (Teamwork)

The matriarch doesn’t rule alone. Her sisters, daughters, and cousins form a council. They decide where to graze, when to rest, and how to protect the calves. Their unity is unbreakable, like the bonds of family.
Teamwork isn’t a buzzword; it’s the heartbeat of success. Imagine boardrooms echoing with elephantine wisdom: “Collaborate or crumble.”

As leaders, remember that the strength of your leadership is reflected in the strength of your team’s collaboration with each other.

The Waiting Game (Patience)
Elephant female leaders exhibit remarkable patience. They persistently guide the herd, reassuring and gaining trust rather than demanding it through intimidation. When the rains delay, the matriarch doesn’t stomp her feet. She waits, her ears attuned to distant thunder. She knows that patience is the key to survival. The herd follows suit, trusting her unwavering resolve.

As leaders, the quickest solution might not always be the best. Let’s cultivate patience, knowing that sometimes, patience is the most strategic move.

Confidence, Not Arrogance
The matriarch doesn’t flaunt her supremacy. She wears her authority lightly, like a silken shawl. Her confidence stems from knowing her purpose: to guide, protect, and pass the torch.

The elephant female leader doesn’t rely on aggression but earns respect through wisdom, strength, and extraordinary problem-solving skills. Her ability to find solutions contributes to the herd’s survival.

As leaders, the best leadership attire is humility.

Legacy in Every Footprint
The matriarch leaves her mark—a trail of pressed grass, imprints in the mud. Her legacy isn’t etched in stone; it’s etched in every elephantine footprint.


As leaders, the real legacy is not only in delivering the results. It is about the lives we touch and the positive ripples we create with our actions.

As you read this, remember the elephant matriarchs. Their leadership transcends species, reminding us that greatness lies not in grand gestures, but in the quiet strength of a well-worn path.

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