Someone once asked me whether I was a mole or a meerkat. It was a strange question and I didn’t have a clue what they meant by it. But I was intrigued by the question and started researching the difference between the two animals.

What I was found was that the mole is a solitary, industrious animal that burrows away underground most of the day looking for food. The mole works alone, avoids others and rarely comes above ground. His only concern is digging and finding food – he is outstanding at both. He lives for about three years.

So a mole works hard, digs all day, avoids contact with other moles and dies young. It doesn’t sound like much fun to me.

Meerkats on the other hand are very social and live in colonies with 20-30 members. They’re very affectionate and regularly groom each other to strengthen their social bonds. Meerkats spend all day outdoors. They are often seen scanning their surroundings for opportunities and dangers. They help each other by providing information and insights about what’s happening around them.

They play, work and socialise together. They like to wrestle and have even been observed in what appeared to be foot races. They live twice as long as moles and seem to have a lot more fun along the way.

Moles are very useful in business – they are the workhorses of any organisation. Give them a pile of work to do and they’ll crunch through it day after day, month after month. They like working alone and don’t want to manage others. Leave them alone and they’ll get the job done. They’re earnest and reliable.

They’re not leaders however and they’ll hit a natural ceiling with their careers. Why? Because as you move further up the ladder it is less about your specific skills and how hard you work and more about your ability to guide, lead and inspire a team to follow you. It is about getting the best out of everyone on your team. You can’t do that working solo, no matter how good you are or how hard you work.

Meerkats work hard too. But they do it in the context of protecting and nurturing their colony to give it every chance of not only surviving but also prospering. It’s the same way that successful businesses (and leaders) operate.

So am I a mole or a meerkat? I’m a meerkat (I think) with a few mole traits…

Featured image by Alan Shapiro