A Big Leadership Lesson From A Small Bird

This morning, as I stole ten minutes to sit in one of my favourite spots in the world (a little Chinese garden), I spotted a sparrow hopping about under the park bench. I watched him for a few minutes, as if I was seeing him for the first time.

Sparrows are such ordinary, run-of-the-mill, kinda (dare I say it) boring birds.

Even though these little creatures inhabit and live alongside us like no other bird, they often go unnoticed.

But there’s a gift in noticing and appreciating the ordinary, the run-of-the-mill and the mundane.Tweet: There’s a gift in noticing and appreciating the ordinary, the run of the mill and the mundane - via @suzimcalpine http://ctt.ec/G3Wyc+

Leaders, especially CEOs and senior executive teams, feel the pressure to come up with the ‘next BIG thing’; the panacea to the organisation’s turnaround, or an idea that will transform the company.

But just like my little sparrow,  it’s the ordinary that can be extraordinary, if we only truly see it.

We have become so busy searching for the ‘next big thing’. And we have lost the art of seeing beauty and value in the everyday.

Your loyal  and competent PA who has quietly and efficiently organised your professional life (and sometimes your personal life too), day in and day out, for months or even for years.

The employee in your company who courageously speaks out and challenges ideas, voicing what others are thinking but are too afraid to say.

The security guard in your building who is always there, quietly going about his or her job every day without fail, keeping your company safe in the process.

The leader who smiles at a workmate who seems sad.

The colleague who listens silently and quietly to someone as they tell their story.

Breathing deeply or practising mindfulness when you are stressed out.

Making space in your diary to stop, reflect and think, instead of constantly filling it with action.

Saying thank you.

These are such simple, commonplace actions. And yet, these are the things that can be incredibly powerful. My very wise mother once said –

“a smile can literally save a person’s life, if that was what they needed in that moment.” Tweet: A smile can literally save a person’s life, if that was what they needed in that moment - via @suzimcalpine http://ctt.ec/7d49P+

So by all means, keep looking for the ‘next big thing’.

Keep chasing the big fish.

But don’t forget to notice and appreciate the sparrows in your world.


  1. Lynne on December 9, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Hi Suzi,
    What great timing – it’s end of year, I am missing some key people in my team, there’s a lot on and I felt myself go into the panic mindset this morning!. Then, I had a laugh with one of my team – a smart, dedicated young team member, I had a great meeting with a key customer which was made possible by great work from a direct report, and I received support from another direct report who is really pulling out the stops at time of pressure for the team and for the business. It’s at these times that it is good to reflect on the things that matter and the people that make it possible to not only get through but to reflect on a good day. I am not going to send this message to those people. Thanks for making me stop and reflect. L

    • Suzi McAlpine on December 10, 2014 at 5:40 am

      So glad the message resonated with you and what a fantastic example of stopping to notice and appreciate the ‘sparrows’ in your world. I’m betting you felt great at the end of the day 🙂 Thanks for sharing. Cheers, Suzi.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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