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How Strong Leaders Go In Like a Lion and Out Like a Lion

“March comes in a like a lion, and out like a lamb.” I remember in my early years hearing those words from a teacher trying to explain the weather in March. It never made much sense to me. I grew up in South Texas, so the month usually started warm and ended warm, and there wasn’t much rain. Lions and lambs seemed like a bunch of nonsense as it related to the weather.

As I travel around the country now, I can understand the origins of the phrase. There most certainly are areas that start the month like a lion. Ferocious winds, cold weather, rain, snow, and sleet. As the month ends, these areas often begin to see sunshine, warm breezes, and signs of spring. Out like a lamb. Now that makes sense.

As a speaker and author, I appreciate the imagery in a phrase. I certainly appreciate the imagery in a single word. When I hear or see the word “lion,” certain attributes come to mind. I envision a majestic animal, regal in its stature. I think of power and authority, and I think of wisdom and strength.

As a leadership guy, I am always applying what I see and hear to our responsibilities as a leader. When I hear the phrase, “In like a lion, and out like a lamb,” I think of numerous leaders I’ve met over the years who fit that description. They took over a leadership role and went in like a lion. With their long-term vision in place, they had power and authority. With strong determination to impact an organization, they had wisdom and strength. They were ready to conquer the world.

Then something happened. Promises got broken. The economy changed the financial picture and resources weren’t available. Politics got in the way. Disengaged employees didn’t embrace the vision. Ultimately, with seemingly little hope for success, they went out like a lamb. Gentle, meek, and innocent. Suddenly the majesty was gone.

We will encounter obstacles regularly that will disappoint us when leading others. Promises will get broken. Financial resources will be limited. Politics will get in the way. And we will always have a handful of disengaged employees who will not embrace our vision (regardless of our efforts). But as leaders, we must continue to lead like a lion. We must continue to be wise and strong.

There are many words used to describe a lion. Some are great to describe strong leadership, and others are not. But when I envision the majesty of a lion, I learn several things from leading like a lion, including:

Depend on your “pride”

Lions deliberately assemble their groups — known as “prides.” In this sense, I’m not referring to the satisfaction they get from their own achievements. I’m referring to their group. In these “prides,” every animal has a specialty. Each animal makes a contribution to the group (including the lioness, which does most of the hunting while the men provide protection). As leaders, we must have our own “pride,” whether it is our team, our family, our association, or our group. Like the lion, we must assemble our groups deliberately, with the intention of including those who bring a specialty to the “pride” to contribute to success when all else seems to be going wrong.

Be courageous

We’ve all seen The Wizard of Oz, so we all know the pathetic image of the cowardly lion. Rather than serving as the king of the jungle, he sulked around the jungle because he had no courage. Pathetic image. As leaders, we must be courageous in the way we lead those around us. Throughout tough times, followers are looking for leaders who will stand tall, take calculated risks, and make difficult decisions. When times are tough, be courageous.

Be willing to fight

One of my favorite images of the lion is a brave calmness. Everyone knows the lion’s strength. The enemy knows of his strength. Those in the “pride” know of his strength. And the lion himself knows of his strength. The lion doesn’t need to parade around, picking fights to remind others how significant he is. In fact, lions don’t pick fights. They fight when they have something to protect. They fight when they need to protect their territory, their food, or the others in their “pride.” They don’t avoid conflict. Like the lion, we need to be calm but willing to face conflict when necessary, and willing to fight for what’s important.

In like a lion, and out like a lamb. We have a responsibility in tough times to continue to lead like a lion. I chose to focus on our role as a lion in the limited space in this blog, although I happen to believe the best leaders have found a way to lead like a lion and a lamb. They know when to be courageous, and they know when to be gentle. Perhaps in the future we can look at the other role. Until then, lead on!

Clint Swindall

© 2016 Clint Swindall — Clint is the president & CEO of Verbalocity, Inc., a personal development company with a focus on leadership enhancement. For information about how he can enhance employee engagement in your organization, please visit, or contact him directly

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