Foxes And Hedgehogs: Which One Are You?

In 2001, I accepted my first official leadership position as a human resources director with one audacious goal – to be and do all the things to serve all the people. With a background in public relations, marketing, and internal communications, HR had become an accidental specialty – I was a jack-of-all-trades and master of none.

It didn’t take long to figure out that I wasn’t good at trying to be and do all the things to serve all the people. The standing joke with my boss was that I was really good at something, we just needed to figure out what it was. She introduced me to the Hedgehog Concept from “Good to Great in the Social Sectors,” a supplement to the business book by Jim Collins, comparing the qualities of hedgehogs and foxes. Foxes are cunning, quick on their feet, able to change directions abruptly in pursuit of what they’re chasing. On the contrary, hedgehogs don’t do much chasing. They are grounded in doing what hedgehogs do best – rolling up in a ball covered with prickly spines to protect from predators. Put simply by the Greek poet Archilochus, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

Leadership development became my one big thing. For more than a decade, I leaned into being a leadership hedgehog until the promise of a new career attracted my attention, only to lead to several years of going down rabbit holes and chasing dead ends. Eventually, I found my way through obstacles to opportunities that included launching a business, Mindful Leadership, in October 2020. Yet once again, my foxlike tendencies returned.

As a new business owner, I had one audacious goal – to coach, consult, facilitate, write, and speak on my experiences with addiction and recovery, behavior analysis, and leadership. I’d hear my coaching peers share what they were working on, and my ego would question why I wasn’t going after the same types of projects. My initial reaction was to be “foxy” in pursuit of opportunities, only to feel frustrated and unfulfilled, like in my first leadership position. What I realized is that just because I could work within a different niche, it doesn’t mean that I should. When I am at my personal best, in life and in leadership, I am doing my one big thing, not trying to take on anyone else’s. These days, I proudly and passionately embrace my leadership hedgehog –- are you doing the same?

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