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Leadership Lessons from Winnie the Pooh: What Leaders Can Learn from a Fictional Bear

Created by English author A.A. Milne in 1926, Winnie the Pooh is not only a beloved children's book character, but also a noted philosopher. No, it's true! The teddy bear with a taste for honey has been the subject of several serious books that examine the deeper meaning of his simple sayings and ideas. One author even concluded that Pooh has a lot to teach us about leadership. Pooh

Published in 2011, Winnie-the-Pooh on Management was written by Roger E. Allen as a primer for business leaders. Why them? According to the author, failure to master or even grasp the basics of management is the ultimate undoing of most businesses. Using our favorite bear's simple, homespun phrases, he is able to cut through the jargon and establish clear objectives, which are the hallmarks of strong leadership. What does Winnie have to teach us? We're glad you asked!

Attitude is Everything

Why do people follow their bosses in the business world? Believe it or not, it's not only because they sign their paychecks. A good leader has the uncanny ability to get the most out of those who work under them, often because they have a positive attitude that's downright infectious. And as we will see from this brief exchange between Winnie the Pooh and his best pal Piglet, he had it too:

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

“It’s the same thing,” he said.

He might not be as introspective or articulate as his friend, but Pooh is a consummate optimist who takes life as it comes. He is seldom nervous or apprehensive about anything, which is his defining character trait. Business leaders would be prudent to follow his fine example, since a positive attitude can go a long way at the office.

Listening is Imperative

The wisest character in the Pooh books is Owl, a friend who often gives Winnie good advice. Here is one popular passage that speaks volumes about Winnie's mindset:

 Pooh Quote“Well, said Owl, “the customary procedure in such cases is as follows.”

“What does Crustimoney Proseedcake mean?” said Pooh.  “For I am a Bear of Very Little Brain and long words Bother me.”

“It means the Thing to Do.”

“As long as it means that, I don’t mind,” said Pooh humbly.

As you may have noticed, Winnie is not threatened by the fact that Owl knows more than him--just as bosses should not be threatened when their workers have a greater grasp of a certain subject. Instead, they should use that knowledge for the benefit of the team, rather than letting their ego get in the way of a golden opportunity. At the end of the day, leaders must realize, like Pooh, that they don't and can't possibly know everything. That's why they have employees!

The above was but a brief sampling of the sage advice and modest wisdom of one of the world's most famous bears. There are, of course, many more kernels of truth hidden within the pages of his books. We invite and encourage you to look examine them all.