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5 Positive Leadership Traits People Can Learn From Eagles

Ian has been an online writer for over seven years. His work focuses on everything from dating advice to business leadership.

Golden eagle

Golden eagle

For centuries, these seemingly larger-than-life birds have fascinated and inspired us with their brilliant leadership characteristics. When eagles come to mind, people commonly imagine an enormous hunter soaring above wide-open spaces on outsized wings.

Indeed, eagles are among the world’s largest birds of prey. We venerate them as living symbols of power, freedom, and transcendence. In some religions, these creatures are believed to touch the face of God. Legend holds that Mexico’s Aztec civilizations so revered the birds that they built Tenochtitlan, their capital, at the spot where an eagle perched on a cactus.

For centuries, people have seen eagles as a symbol of beauty, bravery, courage, honour, pride, determination, and grace. This bird is important and symbolic to humanity because of its characteristics. Here are five important characteristics of the eagle that have been closely associated with leadership.

Leadership Qualities of Eagles

  1. Eagles have powerful vision.
  2. Eagles are fearless.
  3. Eagles are tenacious.
  4. Eagles are high flyers.
  5. Eagles nurture their young.

1. Eagles Have Powerful Vision

If you ever see an eagle sitting high above on a cliff or atop a tree, watch closely and see how attentive the bird is. The body will be still and the head tilted side to side to observe what is happening below, around, and above it. Even if it's flying, you can observe how keen its eyes are, looking for its prey.

The Scientific Facts

  • Eagles have extremely powerful vision.
  • The eyes of an eagle are specially designed for long-distance focus with clarity.
  • The eagle's eye is one of the strongest in the entire animal kingdom (four to eight times stronger than that of the average human).
  • An eagle is able to spot a rabbit 3.2 km away.
  • An eagle's eyes are roughly the same size as those of a human. In fact, as an eagle descends to attack its prey, the muscles in its eyes continuously adjust the curvature of the eyeballs in order to maintain sharp focus throughout the approach and attack.
  • Their eyes are stated to be larger in size than their brain (by weight).
  • The most noteworthy features of eagles' eyes are color vision, high resolution, and clarity.

How These Traits Bring You Success in Your Career

Even if it's flying, you can observe how keen its eyes are, looking for its prey. The eagle teaches us to remain patient, but ever-present, always keeping our eyes to the future, while not forgetting to take note of our present surroundings. When opportunity strikes, you'll need to be the first one to see it and you'll need to move fast. Have a profound vision for your future and constantly remind yourself to stay focused.

How These Characteristics Make You a Better Leader

Does this leadership characteristic ring a bell for you? I am sure it does. Look at great leaders who have come and gone in the world and you'll see that they share the characteristic of eagle-like vision, with the ability to both see reality clearly as it is in the present, as well as make accurate predictions about the future.

You must have a vision that guides and leads your team towards the organization's or society's goals. The vision must be big, as well as focused. A big, focused vision will produce big results.

Example of a Great Leader With This Quality

Abraham Lincoln: Take Abraham Lincoln for example. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, guided his country through the most devastating experience in its national history, the Civil War. He had a vision to save the Union and free the slaves. He is considered by many historians to have been the greatest American president.

You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.

— Abraham Lincoln

2. Eagles Are Fearless Hunters

An eagle will never surrender to its prey, no matter its strength or size. It will always put up a fight to win its prey or regain its territory. Golden Eagles are such remarkable hunters that they can prey on goats much larger than themselves by throwing them off the side of a cliff. We can learn a lot from the eagle's determination.

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The Science

  • The talons, or claws on an eagle's toes are curved and razor-sharp for catching and holding their prey.
  • These large toes gave eagles the name raptor, which comes from a Latin word "rapere" meaning to grip or grasp.
  • The rough bumps on the eagle's toes help them hold slippery, wiggling prey, like fish.
  • The long talons can inflict serious wounds to intruders.
  • Their diet consists mainly of fish, but waterfowl, and small mammals.

How These Traits Bring You Success in Your Career

Just as eagles must risk themselves for the survival of their families, you must not be afraid to put yourself on the line. Someone who's willing to take risks, while staying loyal and determined, will get noticed and plucked out of the crowd.

How These Characteristics Make You a Better Leader

Successful leaders are fearless. They face problems head on. No matter what the size of the problem, a good leader attacks them without regard for themselves. It wouldn’t even dawn on you to be afraid because your instinct is to protect that which you love and cherish. Other take note of your passion and determination and draw strength from it.

Example of a Great Leader With This Quality

Nelson Mandela: Mandela was arrested and imprisoned in 1962. Subsequently, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiring to overthrow the state of South Africa. Mandela served 27 years in prison (split between Robben Island, Pollsmoor Prison, and Victor Verster Prison). After all of his challenges, he still advocated for forgiveness and equality, never backing down from a challenge.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

— Nelson Mandela

3. Eagles Are Tenacious Defenders

Watch an eagle when a storm comes. While other birds fly away from the storm, an eagle spreads its mighty wings and uses the current to soar to greater heights. The eagle takes advantage of the very storm that lesser birds fear.

The Scientific Facts

  • Bald eagles use their long, sharp claws to defend themselves. Bald eagles do not have any animal predators.
  • Osprey, a large bird, may try to attack them, but the eagle will scare them away.
  • Eagles build their nests high up and are vigilant protectors of their eggs and young.
  • It is thought that bald eagles mate for life. However, if one member of a pair dies or disappears, the survivor will choose a new mate.
  • They invest heavily in their relationships.
  • They share the burden of building and maintaining a home and the trials of parenthood.
  • Eagle courtship involves elaborate, spectacular calls and flight displays.
  • Usually, a territory defended by a mature pair will be 1 to 2 km (0.62 to 1.24 mi) of waterside habitat.

How These Traits Bring You Success in Your Career

The challenges in the life of a leader are many. These are the storms we must face as leaders to rise to greater heights. When eagles build relationships, they truly invest in them.

How These Traits Make You a Better Leader

Like an eagle, a leader can only rise to greater heights if he faces the challenges head on without running away from them.

Example of a Great Leader With This Quality

Cesar Chavez: Cesar Chavez made people aware of the struggles of farm workers for better pay and safer working conditions. Chavez succeeded to bring higher pay and better hours to farm workers through nonviolent tactics (boycotts, pickets, and strikes). Cesar Chavez never gave up and defended his people fiercely.

Preservation of one's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.

— Cesar Chavez

4. Eagles Are High Flyers

Great leaders are problem solvers. They don’t complain like the chickens do. When the storm comes, they love to take challenges as the eagle does.

The Science

  • In reality, eagles tend to use very little energy when they fly so high.
  • Even though they can reach altitudes of over 10,000 feet, they are usually soaring to these heights, and taking long glides to cover ground, then soaring up again and repeating the process.
  • Their large wingspan allows them to glide and use very little energy.

How These Traits Bring You Success in Your Career

An eagle doesn't mingle with the pigeons. Pigeons scavenge on the ground and grumble and complain all day long. Eagles don't. They fly and make less noise, waiting for opportunities to strike their next prey or gliding with the current of the storm. Remaining focused on that which inspires you will help guide you through your career. It's easier to stay motivated when you stay focused on what truly inspires you.

How These Traits Make You a Better Leader

Great leaders are problem solvers. They don't complain like pigeons do. They love to take challenges like an eagle when the storm comes.

Eagles can fly up to an altitude of 10,000 feet, but they are able to swiftly land on the ground. At 10,000 feet, you will never find another bird. You must have high hopes and work to inspire others to greater heights. Think big and ask others to think big as well. When eagles fly, they make less noise than other birds. They wait patiently for opportunities to strike. We can learn a lot from the eagle's power and patience.

Example of a Great Leader With This Quality

Warren Buffett: Buffett was born in Nebraska in 1930. He demonstrated keen business abilities at a young age. He formed Buffett Partnership Ltd. in 1956, and by 1965 he had assumed control of Berkshire Hathaway. He oversaw the growth of a conglomerate with holdings in the media, insurance, energy and food, and beverage industries. Buffett is one of the world's richest men and a celebrated philanthropist. We can learn a lot from Buffett's savvy investing and his constant vigilance.