Taming of the Crew

What lion tamers teach us about team management
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the January 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

The corporate world is often compared to a jungle, so it's no wonder that Steve Katz is making that connection in his book, Lion Taming: Working Successfully With Leaders, Bosses and Other Tough Customers (Sourcebooks). The book, which actually gathers insights from professional lion tamers, is largely aimed at employees who want to tame lions in their lives (that would be you), but Katz believes entrepreneurs would benefit greatly from reading it. "There's always a bigger lion," he explains.

Beyond picking up strategies to tame suppliers, customers and competitors who want to devour you, you need to embrace your inner lion, says Katz. And you might think it's worse to consider yourself a wild animal at the receiving end of the tip of a whip, but it isn't meant that way.

"One of the secrets of the lion tamer is to present the lion to the audience. It's not the other way around. The lion tamer's job is to showcase your strengths," says Katz, who stresses the importance of employing the right lion tamers at your company. His book contains 85 "Secrets of the Lion Tamers," and organizes the most important strategies to apply in business, including the significance of rapport, trust, respect and confidence.

There may be something to this. Ed Spevak, mammal conservation program manager at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, describes a lion's work habits: "When they feed and hunt, they try to be efficient, work cooperatively and, when they do take on an animal, consume it quickly."

Echoing the thoughts in Katz's book, Spevak talks about how the animal operates in a hierarchical society and depends on the strength of the team or, in lion-speak, the pride.

But it's possible to take the analogy too far. "Lions are lazy," says Spevak. "They sleep 20 to 22 hours a day." That won't get you far in the business jungle.

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