Are You A Road Runner or Coyote?

by  Chip Bell  |  Leadership Development

The Road Runner streaks away into the sunset, leaving behind a vanquished coyote with a look of exasperation and exhaustion.  Road Runner…1, Wile E. Coyote…0.  “Beep-beep!”

We laugh at the inevitable outcome.  The Road Runner is the epitome of confidence—power at warp speed.  He doesn’t just escape; escape implies the threat of capture, and the Road Runner never seems seriously concerned.  He emerges…victorious, again.  The cartoon metaphor contains powerful lessons relevant for enterprises seeking marketplace victories.

We live in an era where time, place, secrecy, size, and order are no longer relevant…where customers expect personalized outcomes delivered by passionate, agile, and responsive employees…where spirited, on-the-run learners outpace “just-follow-the-Acme-instructions” domesticated workers.  We live in a time when roadrunners rule and coyotes…crash!

Coyotes are earnest; roadrunners are passionate.  Coyotes are resilient; roadrunners are resourceful.  Coyotes look over their shoulders; roadrunners look ahead.  Coyotes are procedural; roadrunners are experimental.   Coyotes rely on a sole source supplier; roadrunners rely on no one and everyone…depending on need.  Coyotes operate from what they want; roadrunners from who they are.  Coyotes are grim; roadrunners are jubilant.  Is your team or organization a Wile E. Coyote or a Road Runner?  Are you a coyote leader or a roadrunner leader?

Roadrunner leaders create cultures in which everyone is a full player.  They include employees and customers in dramatic and novel ways.  They eliminate pecking order…since “rank” to them means something with an odor, not something to be saluted!  They help everyone think and act like an owner.  Secrets are banned; myths are bashed and rumors are squashed.

Since enterprise is now virtual, roadrunner leaders pursue value-added alliances and nurture diverse partnerships that can expand their resources and increase their response time.   They borrow brains rather than own them.  They strip away bulgy corporate staffs and get rid of all weight that keeps their unit or organization slow, bolted down and utterly vanilla in their responses.  They eliminate anything and everything that contributes to drag.

Because they know that mastery is the magic, roadrunner leaders act as mentors, not meddlers…they partner instead of parent.  They turn every mistake into a lesson; every miscue into an instruction for improvement.  They encourage interesting errors and delightful mistakes.  Because they think BIG…beyond conventional wisdom…they inspire their associates to change the rules of their industry.  They invite out-of-the-ordinary people from diverse disciplines to attend their meetings and coach their team.  They treasure demanding and complaining customers as potential sources for wisdom.  They create electronic knowledge networks, promote peer coaching and encourage community service.

Roadrunner leaders know that enthusiastic employees come from passionate, high-integrity, joy-filled cultures and they model the attributes that create such a setting.   They encourage bone-honest, candid dialogue.  They get rid of hyper-legalistic, self-protective, arm’s length pseudo partnerships.  Since breakthrough is the road to prosperity, they go for the lunatic fringe, the quirky approach and the audacious solution.   They assume they are in the fashion business where everything is out-of-date and obsolete practically overnight.  They know they are on the right road, if their competitors label them as crazy, their customers see them as out of the box, and their associates defend them as revolutionary!   Beep-beep!


Photo credit: © Lorelyn Medina – Fotolia.com

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About The Author

Articles By chip-bell
Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and has served as a customer loyalty consultant to some of the world’s most famous brands. He has authored a number of national best-selling books including “The 9 1⁄2 Principles of Innovative Service.” His newest book is the just-released, “Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles.” He can be reached at chipbell.com.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Jon Mertz  |  14 Jan 2014  |  Reply


Enjoyed reading your post. Roadrunner leaders do display the confidence to work with others, no matter where they are, and determine how to lead ahead. In reading this, the “Coyote” people are the curmudgeons, always trying to “lay the trap” and stop progress. Thanks!


Denise Wymore  |  14 Jan 2014  |  Reply

I live in Cochiti Lake, New Mexico – home of coyotes and roadrunners. Yesterday as I was driving home a roadrunner crossed the road in front of me. To look into their eyes is to see intensity. They are magnificent creatures. The state bird of New Mexico they kill rattlesnakes by merely pecking them into impaling themselves on a cactus. Bad ass!

Love your analogy.

Mary C Schaefer  |  14 Jan 2014  |  Reply

Chip, what a great analogy. The use of cartoon characters make a fun read of a meaningful subject.

Vatsala Shukla  |  18 Jan 2014  |  Reply

For me a good post is one that makes me stop to think and analyze. Top marks for making me do that, Chip. The particular cartoon that you used is one of my all-time favorites and yes, I was always on the Roadrunner’ side but I am also thinking about Mr Wile. E. Coyote – indeed he has resilience. Which brings up the point, that while Roadrunners are seen as progressive surely being resilient is a quality that needs to be taken into account.

As to the question about whether one is a roadrunner or a coyote, I think it is good to be a roadrunner but also switch to being a coyote to consolidate gains before moving forward in a strategic manner.

PS. I read your book ‘Managers as Mentors” early in my managerial/leadership days and it is still on my bookshelf as a reference guide.

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