The Silver Back Gorilla And Queen Bee Approach To Entrepreneurship
The business world and employee interactions are amazing, yet complex phenomena. And, to paint a ‘real life’ picture: no two human personalities are alike. In fact, partners in business are oftentimes polar opposites, breeding conflict and dissention.
Can two highly energetic, creative, and pioneering professionals (even life partners) not only co-exist, but thrive in running a business venture?
The answer is an emphatic, “Yes!” Let us explain…
The Silverback Gorilla
The silverback male gorilla is a strong and powerful leader who typically has had to fight his way to the top. His name comes from the distinctive patch of silver hair on his back. He can be intimidating. He commands, puts up with no dissent, and demands to be the center of attention.
Without a doubt, silverbacks are strong, dominant leaders. They make all the decisions, mediate conflicts, determine the movements of the group, lead the others to feeding sites, and take responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of all. The silverback experiences fulfillment primarily through success and accomplishment.
But when the silverback is challenged, say by a younger male or an outsider, he will scream, beat his chest, break branches, bare his teeth, and then attack. When that happens, it is a terrifying sight. But this type of intimidation is how the silverback ultimately controls and conquers those around him.
Most ‘would-be’ adversaries back off without taking him on. No one has any doubt about who’s the boss. The silverback is a powerful force to be reckoned with. Unchecked, he can also be very destructive.
The Queen Bee
But what about the queen bee? Isn’t she also in charge? Definitely! She is in charge of the beehive and represents the main purpose of the ordinary bees’ existence. She guides all actions that make up their busy lives.
A beehive is run by a single queen, aided by hundreds of drones and tens of thousands of worker bees. There is a remarkable level of social organization in operation.
Every day, bees manage thousands of arrivals and departures in a single hive, without a dispatcher. We humans need complex, computerized flight control systems to manage heavy flight traffic. And we don’t have nearly the same success rate.
Consider also the bees’ precise hive building skills. There is still no explanation for how a colony of bees can construct honeycombs so impeccably, so perfectly, all without special tools. And in the dark! It is truly remarkable to consider.
So, although the queen bee is certainly a leader and is the center of attention, she operates in a very different way than the silverback gorilla. She is less aggressive and her primary concern is to maintain an orderly hive that functions well.
The Silverback And Queen Bee In Business
In the context of the natural world, the silverback and the queen bee are both born leaders in their respective territories and roles. It’s hard to imagine how the rest of the community would survive without them. Both have very positive traits, and also potentially destructive traits.
Now translate this analogy from nature into the business world, specifically in the context of two life partners working together. The immediate question is “Will there be enough room for a silverback and a queen bee to manage one business?” Because of their formidable individual strengths, it would be easy to conclude that such a partnership would be a recipe for disaster.
If you stick with the stereotypical silverback and the queen bee, then it’s surely not going to work. After all, the business silverback is protective. But does the queen bee he works with need or even want his protection? The queen bee, in turn, is highly organized, but would the silverback be able to work—or would he want to work—in such a rigid environment?
In short, the queen bee leaves the silverback no room to dream whereas the silverback leaves the queen bee no place to shine.
For added spice, sprinkle in some common irony: although the queen bee has the strength, she may never resort to the power struggle required to displace the silverback. So he could continue to dominate and dictate the future of the business, shutting the queen bee out of what she does best.
More questions: If they’re in business together, as well as being life partners, who will lead? Who’s in charge? When it comes to the final say, are they equal? After all, great life partnerships are about unconditional acceptance and love, but business is about competition!
In our business, there was never any question as to whether William was the silverback in our camp. And although he still is today, let me assure you that there has been a maturing of this silverback over the years.
And thankfully so! Because I (Louise) can honestly say I never stepped fully into my power until the more mature silverback appeared. Perhaps I matured and decided to work with him as opposed to feeling like I was working for him.
Whatever the case, I was more than happy to tag William as the silverback, and continually shrug off my queen bee identity. I was concerned that if I asserted my role I might be tagged as being a diva, matron, warden, control freak, or prize bitch.
I could easily have sat back and watched while my silverback ran himself into the ground trying to conquer the universe, simply for the sake of winning. Yes, I could have said “It’s his business. He knows what’s best, so good luck to him.” That would have been the easy and tempting route. But it would have been just an excuse for not being prepared to step up and operate as an equal partner.
Did I know what I should have been doing? Absolutely. When did it become clear? From day one of our relationship! That’s right. I knew with absolute certainty from the outset of our working relationship that I should be taking charge of the business management while William went out and did what he does best, which is to expand our ‘territory’ and hunt for new sales opportunities.
William & Louise