Leadership Lessons From “The Jungle Book”

I must have read Jungle Book multiple number of times both as a child and in later life too. About a week back I went to watch the new “Jungle Book” movie with my son and nephew expecting it to be yet another children’s fare, but five minutes into the movie I was perhaps more engrossed in the movie than the little ones. The new Jungle Book movie by Jon Favreau makes you part of the Jungle, throughout the movie I kept cajoling Mowgli to take the battle to Sher Khan.

Keeping aside the eye pleasing aspects of the movie, as I walked out of cinema, I kept thinking about various characters in the movie and how each one of them had leadership lessons for us or embodied someone whom we have worked with or we have seen working at close quarters.

Akela: ( The Leader Of The Wolf Pack)- “Akela” in Hindi stands for someone who is alone. A leader who leads his pack with strength, agility and speed. Such leaders are highly protective of their teams, are wise and their motto is to take care of their teams and leading them to perform better. They are serious by nature. They see threat looming around and keep moving together to perform. Someone who is always on their toes and keeps the team too on their toes. No Nonsense leaders, you may not like them initially but their intent and lives are dedicated to the pack.

Baloo the Bear: You will come across Baloo’s in your workplace. The reluctant leaders, less on skills to motivate and push the team, can takeover teams after the project phase since they lack the drive and aggression needed for the projects. But are jovial, clumsy, good natured, laid back, fun loving and just do not care about happenings around them. Will give suggestions to team members if solicited, but are generally aloof and are not mentors. Their motto in life is live and let live, watch movies, go for vacations, have good food and just take it easy. Live life one day at a time. They are not visionaries. They do whatever it takes to survive through the day.

Kaa (The Python): All too often one will come across leaders/managers who depict the Kaa characteristics but by the time you discover, its too late, they would have got their job done and would have moved to greener pastures. They are conniving, persuasive, crafty and tricky. They are cowards and generally will not be seen around in crisis situations. They will keep themselves protected even at the cost of their team and their bosses. They will seduce you to get their work done, are sycophants and you will see your hard work being usurped by them shamelessly.

Bhageera ( The Black Panther): They are the true mentors, who take themselves very seriously. They are the ones who see potential in young people. They take pride in protecting and mentoring the Mowgli’s at the workplace. When everyone complains in the organization about young Turks and their arrogance, Bhageera will shut them up, ensuring that youngsters get the space and recognition needed to grow. They are short tempered, persistent, watchful, and irritable, but are loyal. They value the company of young and their ideas. When the time comes they will stand behind the Mowgli’s who dare the Shere Khan's.

King Louie ( The Giant Orangutan): They are well ensconced leaders who have accumulated fat over the years, losing their agility to move or look beyond their desks, in this case their kingdoms/ fiefdoms. They often lead Bandar Log ( Congregation of Monkeys), who survive only on peanuts but are happy about it. Such leaders often recruit more of the monkeys ensuring that their is no real threat to them and their position. They keep themselves entertained in the company of monkeys, they seldom know what is happening around them , often ending up losing their Kingdom after long reins, in the process the monkey followers also perish without any trace.

Shere Khan ( The Royal Bengal Tiger): They are the leaders which organizations require during tough times and when it's getting into high octane project mode.They are stubborn, mysterious,aggressive, and strong willed. They can take any leap of faith to get their job accomplished. They do not care about the inherent risks and are not at all risk averse. For all their strengths, they are sarcastic and may not see the strength of the competition. They sometimes fail due to their overconfidence bordering on arrogance. They instill fear around them. You need such leaders when tough calls are to be taken. They are loners and do not believe in any one’s strength besides their own.

Mowgli ( The Man Cub): All organizations have Mowgli’s , the young effervescent youth who genuinely think out of the box, are prepared to learn and take risks. They are fearless, determined, carefree and resourceful. The so called millennials. They are fast to adapt and are full of bright ideas. They are feral, mischievous and naive. They need good mentors, either a Bhageera or an Akela. Without them organizations can not grow or think new. Even when outmatched, Mowgli would stand his ground and make it a point that they are not afraid.

All Organizations are miniature Jungles and the story of “The Jungle Book” is not new to us. In the Labyrinth of the Organizations we meet all the characters of “The Jungle Book”. In every organization we come across mentors, predators and happy go lucky ones. It's a Jungle Out There, Only The Fittest and The Smartest Survive.


Ajit Kumar Nair is a digital, start up enthusiast who loves short stories and writings on daily happenings.