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Don’t Send Your Ducks to Eagle School - Based on John Maxwell’s Book “ Leadership Gold”

One of the hardest aspects of being in a management role is identifying the upcoming leaders on your team. As a Leader, you need to know what you are looking for and ensure they fit the charactertistics of what you are looking for someone to possess in a leadership role. If you choose incorrectly, you set yourself up for a long road of pain. As John Maxwell eloquently states in his book “Leadership Gold”, "Don’t Send Your Ducks to Eagle School."


Oftentimes, we promote team members out of necessity and not from a place of merrit.

Team members are placed in higher roles without merrit for several reasons:

  • Necessity - the Manager is looking for a body to fill the position. This occurs if the position has been vacant for some time and the Manager is eager or panicked to fill the position. The result of this placement can be a temporary bandaid, but does not create a strong foundation for the long-term. Oftentimes by going this route, it results in pain for both the employer and the employee.

  • Undefined Characteristics - the Manager may not have identified what characteristics they want within a Leader. As a Leader it’s imperative that you know what you are looking for and need in the position. You can remember these quick tips to create your list:

Adaptability - quickly adjusts to change

Discernment - understands the real issues

Perspective - sees beyond their own vantage point

Communication - links to all levels of the organization

Security - does not find identity in position

Servanthood - does whatever it takes

Resourcefulness - finds creative ways to make things happen

Maturity - puts the Team before self

Endurane - remains consistent in character and competence over the long haul

Countability - can be counted on when it counts

It's important that as a Leader you understand what characteristics identify a potential leader and that you stick to your list.

  • Transformation - the last mistake a Manager can make is to think they can take a Team Member who does not carry the characteristics and transform them. This is exactly what John Maxwell meant in his statement, “ Dont send your ducks to eagle school”. An Eagle is an Eagle and a Duck is a Duck. If you try to intermingle, you will end up frustrating both the Eagle and the Duck and yourself. I can tell you from my own experience that I have made this mistake. To this day, I still feel horrible about the situation because it ended in pain for both parties. Pain that was unnecessary on both sides. My reasoning was initially for reason number 1, but I felt through reason number 3 that it would be ok. It was not. Please know that there is nothing wrong with being a duck or an eagle. Keep your Team Members in their strength zones, so they can soar in their respective areas.

At the end of the day, remember that we have choices in our attitude, character and responsiblity, but natural ability is not our choice, but a gift. As a Leader, you must identify your Team Members strengths and help them develop and grow within their zone. For your Eagles, help them grow and develop their skills and transfer into leadership roles and for your Ducks, help them grow and develop their skills within their zone. As John Maxwell states, “ Leadership is all about placing people in the right place so they can be successful.” Identify, develop and grow, but keep your Eagles as Eagles and your Ducks as Ducks, don’t try to force change.


Kendra Clark Leadership Strategies is a global agency located in Stockton, CA focusing on executive coaching and leadership, business and marketing strategy consulting with a focus on sports and entertainment, hospitality, tourism and non profit organizations.   As a member of the John Maxwell Team, Kendra helps organizations and executives overcome any hurdles they may be facing through purposeful leadership and strategy. To learn more about our services, please email Kclark@kclstrategies.com or visit www.kclstrategies.com.


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