Kerstin Plehwe

February 07, 2019
The Great Hall

Reflection | Podcast | VideoPhotos

Elephant Wisdom: Leadership Lessons from Africa's Most Fascinating Animals

Kerstin Plehwe is an award winning European entrepreneur, TED speaker, best selling author and visionary thought leader. She has written eight books and has worked with top politicians, olympic athletes and corporate executives. KP strongly believes in personal growth outside of comfort zones and decided to leave her busy life as keynote speaker, CEO and philanthropist behind to realize her biggest dream: Leaving her corner office and become a Ranger in South Africa's wilderness. This has changed her views on life and leadership forever.



On Thursday, February 7, entrepreneur, speaker, and author Kerstin Plehwe talked to students about lessons she learned while fulfilling her dream to become an African ranger.

For a portion of her talk, Plehwe described what she refers to as “Lion Leadership,” which consists of seven lessons for life. The first is to know one’s values and priorities; if a person is surrounded by colleagues and friends who don’t help them achieve their goals, they will have a hard time reaching their full potential.

The second lesson she mentioned was to master the power of teamwork. Plehwe noted that young lionesses hunt while older ones watch the children, allowing all of them to contribute in the way that works best for them.

In addition, lions are known for sleeping up to 18 hours each day, which allows them the mental and physical rest needed to be productive during the day. Many Americans and Europeans don’t allow themselves enough rest, and when they do take breaks, they are often on their phones or watching tv, which never lets them fully relax. This third lesson ties in closely with the fourth, which is to master mindfulness. Taking moments to stop, breathe, and approach the task at hand often leads to better results and allows the individual to fight overstimulation.

Although she mentioned that each person tends to have a dominant sense, Plehwe’s fifth lesson was to use all senses; they may not be applicable in every situation, but understanding that people experience the world through different lenses can help solve problems and make communication easier.

The sixth lesson, which seems to be difficult for many people, is learning to say no. In the wild, it’s clear to see what an animal wants; they growl and bare their teeth when their angry and play when they’re happy. Unlike people, they don’t consider how a decision will affect their social standing, and even though saying no isn’t always easy, it allows an individual to take on only what is feasible.

The final lesson, which is perhaps the most important, is to dare to be you. Lions are very expressive and make no effort to tone down their personalities. Plehwe said she believes we need more authentic leaders, and that “excellence goes hand-in-hand with authenticity.”

According to Plehwe, “you need to leave your comfort zone in order to do things you didn’t think you could, as well as discover new talents.” It is easy to become complacent and comfortable, but personal and career achievements rarely come from these moments in someone’s life.

The A.P.E.X. season will continue on Thursday, February 14, with a presentation by LGBTQ advocacy group, Mama Dragons. The event will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Gilbert Great Hall of the Hunter Conference Center, located on SUU’s campus.

by Billy Clouse


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