5 lessons from Animal Farm every leader should understand

Growing up I wasn’t much of a reader…

So I can sympathize when I meet people who tell me that they “hate” reading.

I mean, why bother reading a book that’ll take a few days when you can watch a movie in two hours?

That’s what many people are thinking when I suggest they read.

Now I love TV and I do love a good movie, but I’ve come to realize there’s just no replacement for a good book.

And when it comes to recommending a book to other people one book stands out above the rest: Animal Farm.

There are three reasons I choose this book over all others are

  • It’s short
  • It’s interesting
  • It’s memorable

I love the Harry Potter series, but with the shortest book being about 300 pages. That’s not an easy sell with people who don’t want to read.

A few of Sidney Sheldon’s books are awesome, but again, they tend to be medium length books.

For horror lovers, Stephen King is perfect. Tom Clancy’s the master of espionage and military novels. But as most of their best books are over 700 pages, these are for the serious readers.

Animal Farm is 100 pages long which means pretty much anyone can finish it within two weeks, if not sooner.

I read it in one sitting, as I couldn’t put it down. It’s that good.

But what sets Animal Farm apart is its message. Despite being published in 1945, I see its lessons everywhere, which is why I consider it a must for everyone’s library, especially those in leadership positions. That means entrepreneurs, managers, CEOs, principals, business owners, even parents.

Here are 5 lessons from Animal Farm that should never be forgotten.

  •  “Knowledge is power.”

There will always be people who are in the know, and choose to take advantage of it. Corruption has been around for thousands of years. That’s not going to change. Every leader must understand the systems they have in place and their weaknesses. And there will always be people who will abuse it.

  • “Equality is a utopian dream.”

We are not equal. While people like to continually push this agenda, unfortunately, no two human beings are exactly alike. We may have the same desires, hopes and fears, but how they affect us can be as different as night and day.

  • “Beware Greeks bearing gifts.”

Who doesn’t love gifts? Well, not all gifts are welcome ones. Just ask Troy. Be careful just who you accept gifts from, as they may come back to bite you later on.

  • “Make sure what you finally do is the product of your own conclusion”

This is a quote from my mentor, Jim Rohn. A true leader must be decisive. They should listen to all the facts and then determine the best course of action, no matter how painful. Leaders will be forced to make tough choices from time to time. That’s just part of being a leader. 

  • “There are those leaders who start out with wanting to help, gets off course and then never comes back.”

Companies, by and large, are created with good intentions. They have a product or service that they believe will help people. Maybe it’s a cheaper product (Ford), or better made (Apple), fast delivery (FedEx), reliability (Toyota), or unlimited selection (Amazon).

Here in Japan, one company wanted to help Japanese people learn English. They opened thousands of locations, employed thousands of teachers and staff and built the most recognizable name for English conversation in the country. And then, somewhere along the line, things went astray. In fact, their whole model became based around the idea of getting people to sign up for 6-month contracts. When it came to light some students were unable to get the lessons they had signed up for, and the government prevented them from taking these large sums of money. Everything fell apart.

A noble idea that got abused and eventually became a shell of what they set out to build.

One person can change everything. Leaders must understand that.

I know one leader who should really step aside as they have lost touch with their employees and the changing environment. Success and money can do that to a leader.

Animal Farm might not sound like an interesting book, but reading it will give you a good idea of what can go wrong in any organization, from a Fortune 500 company on down.

We all have to start somewhere.

Why not start with Animal Farm?

Adrian Shepherd

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