What the Elk Taught Me about Leadership

Hay! Follow Me!

By: Susan Deborah Schiller

The wisest king, past, present, and future, was King Solomon and he used to study the animals to gain wisdom. I figured I would follow his lead.

I spotted the elk herd in my backyard from my living room window, zooming in with my camera lens. How did they know it was the day after hunting season? How did they know we had just dumped a bale of hay in the horse pasture?

I like to keep watch with both sets of eyes… one set on what's around me and the other set stretching beyond the scenes, just out of sight… across the invisible divide between heaven and earth.

Elk like to talk. Their voices nearly sing when they're happy. They leap and dance. I know they love their families, protect their children, and look out for each other. I have watched it all from my window, from late fall to early spring. 

Their leader is a brave bull who eyes me carefully. His family is safe while he is on watch.

Most of us are followers, letting the leader call the major decisions. When he says "Hay! Follow me!" we run with the herd. There's wisdom in nature, and most of the time this is right on. But not when a leader is a wolf in disguise. Some leaders will feed you to the wolves.

Elk can only take so much human contact. I wonder if they are disgusted with us. Do they understand how our society often does not protect the weak and young, as they do? Isn't it shameful?

I've had stare-downs for as much as five minutes or so, which seems an eternity if you don't have the protection of a door or a wall between you and the leader. Elk know who their predators are, and perhaps could sense that I was an elk-eater. Used to be, that is.

 I wonder why are humans so senseless when it comes to spotting the predators in our midst? How can we so easily miss the signs? Instead of fighting or running, we promote them, put them on platforms and in front of television cameras, and then when they attack, we blame the victims. We don't protect our own.

I used to be a follower, a really good one. When the leader said, "Hay! Follow me!" I followed with the rest of the herd, just wanting to be fed. I also used to be a leader, a pretty good one. But no more. 

I've connected with many others who have left the herd that has forgotten how to smell the predators… who sacrifice their own family members, leaving them alone to bleed and die. 

The elk herd taught me how families are designed to protect, provide, and care for each other. The brave bull showed me what a man's role is, through Heaven's eyes. I will never forget that bull's look. He respected me but he meant business, if I showed any sign of aggression with his family nearby. 

I pray for Christian men everywhere to be like that mighty elk bull. We are humans… how did we sink so low that the beasts of the field appear more righteous and godly than we?

I believe by telling our stories we will re-awaken our leaders and that once again we will remember how to spot predators, why we protect our weak and young, and how to go after the ones who have strayed and are lost.

The next time your leaders tell you, "Hay! Follow me!" use discernment. Look beyond the natural and see what is truly happening through Heaven's eyes.

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With all my love,


Susan Schiller knows how it feels to lose everything: marriage and family, church and reputation, finances and businesses, and more. Susan's upcoming, interactive memoir, "On the Way Home," tells the story of how she came to be known as "the most abused woman" her counselors had yet met and how she learned to navigate to freedom and fullness.  
Today Susan helps people write their life stories, unearthing the treasures of their past and sowing them into their future, creating new family legacies.

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