Monkey See, Monkey Do

“In a folktale from Mali, a hat salesman has his entire inventory of hats stolen by monkeys, who grab them while he naps under a tree, and then climb out of his reach. Upon waking, he gestures and screams angrily at the monkeys, only to have them imitate his gesturing and screaming. Finally, he throws his own hat to the ground in frustration. The monkeys do the same, and happy ending ensures. This story is retold in the 1999 book The Hatseller and the Monkeys, by Baba Wague Diakite” (1)

What an amazing picture of what it means to be a leader. These silly monkeys can’t intelligently make sense of their actions, but by seeing the man with the hats, they begin to mimic his every move.

This is an awesome lesson every aspiring leader can incorporate in their daily lives, and here are three thoughts I derived from this story:

We all have “monkeys” around us

Just like this hat salesman, we are surrounded by “monkeys” everyday.  These individuals, aren’t seeking to be a leader, to run a high quality team, managing, parenting, entering the clergy, or desire to take on any head position.  But those of us that are in these positions must remain vigilant at the countless eyes watching our every move.  They see how we walk, hear how we talk, and look to us for direction.  Have you ever heard this saying?  “This job would be great if it weren’t for the employees.”  Well there wouldn’t be a job without employees, and you wouldn’t be a leader without “monkeys” to lead. 

“Don’t do as I do, do as I say do!”

I heard that my whole life from my dad. Although I understand why he said it, it’s a false expectation to think a kid isn’t going to watch and copy your every move.  Mimicry is the first response to those we lead!  They see first and do second. If we want a certain action, let us exemplify our desired behavior.  They tell me my dad threw a cigarette down on the ground and I reached down and picked it up. He whipped my bottom for looking like I was smoking.  What a responsibility we have as leaders to those that mimic our every move. 

Specific goals, Desired outcome, Ultimate success

Although the hat salesman wasn’t aware of it, he had a specific goal. He wanted his hats back. If we want our people to do what we want, we need to set specific goals and project your vision. 

Then you can achieve your desired outcome. What do you expect out of them? Are you “walking the walk?”  People want a leader not a boss. 

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”  John Quincy Adams

Your vision will be their vision, your desires will become their desires, and your successes will be their successes, as long as you give them a leader worth following. 


Author: Dustin Carr

I am married with a beautiful baby boy named Jaxson, and a sweet little girl on the way. Well, I am going to pretend she's sweet. I have managed a local franchise for the last 10 years. My desire is to encourage and educate individuals on leadership.

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