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We Should Learn from Wolves, not Sheep
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 10/26/2015


"If humans could react to controversy or conflict in the same way wolves did, we may see a higher incidence of co-operation and a lower incidence of poor productivity due to hurt feelings or feelings of resentment." Jess Edberg, International Wolf Center

As of late, we have become a nation of sheep that follow others blindly. No longer do we think for ourselves as a majority making the line blurred to some and very clear to others. Exploring this behavior of sheep draws inferences that will take us to the lessons learned from wild wolves who know how to survive under adverse conditions whether they are nature’s elements or man’s instinct to kill them.

From the very start, the biggest difference between sheep and wolves is the canine species ability to adapt and develop traits that are productive in leadership, teamwork cooperation and share or create clear communication as a pack rather than a flock of misfit unorganized and loitering in the fields. This concept of learning from wolves is not new for men. In fact, if you do a little bit of research you will find strong suggestions that humans learned much of their own vital skills to survive from wolf packs. Whether you want to admit it or not, wolves are not just predatory in nature, they are also social in nature. They know how to function as group better than most animals that live on this planet.

While sheep are without direction or cause, wolves have an attitude that is always based on the basic question that asks, “What is best for the pack?” similar to sheep, wolves have learned to live around people but know how to detect dangers and risks. Unlike sheep, they picked up human traits and adapted skills that allowed them a higher survival rate than most wild animals. Walking with wild wolves can teach us elements of leadership and team dynamics – fundamentally speaking wolves demonstrate behaviors which illustrate confidence, social independence [limited], assertiveness, team building and good at adapting and overcoming challenges or barriers created to make it more difficult for them to survive in the wild or whatever it is they need to do in order to create a situation that is best to their advantage.

Highly intelligent, these creatures are so adaptable, their dynamics are constantly changing to meet the need of the hunt or existence. One trait is the adaptability to change the course of action when their memory relates that it didn’t work out the last time so they avoid doing it the same way to see if this is how they can get away with the act rather than get caught. Sheep, on the other hand, do the same routine over and over and get killed doing the same thing without adapting or changing their habits or survival skills. The similarities between wolves and human can be surprisingly close and more so than our relationship with sheep.

Sheep don’t re-learn things very well. They don’t work as a team and blindly follow wherever the lead takes them. Sheep don’t distribute the load or burdens like wolves do; they do things on their own and drift away from any herd responsibilities. Most sheep don’t have leaders, they just follow. Wolves don’t inspire to be a leader, they have a leader but share the burdens of the leader giving the lead pack wolf a break when needed.

Wolf packs rely on what’s best for the pack. Even at an early age, wolf pups learn their roles in their own social circle of the pack. Their flexibility of demands and roles provided to cope and function as a pack depends on every individual wolf to do its part of contributions made to benefit the entire pack and not just one.

Certainly, I am not suggestion we develop a pack mentality but what we should promote is the individual responsibilities needed to create success or survival. It is a matter of mutual benefit and respect that drives this attitude, not self-centered or lack of interest in the balance of the herd as sheep often demonstrate. Contrasting from sheep, every wolf has his own voice. Every wolf respects the voice of every other wolf.

Wolves thrive on the team spirit – they allow each member to participate and promote positive peer relationships that can lead to higher achievements and greater productivity within the pack. One can see how this bonds or creates a tighter relationship among the pack and in this respect, create a higher desire to work hard and play hard to boost their commitment to the pack.

Perseverance, focus and purpose thrive the pack’s will to live and survive. Hunting is best when done as a team. This is because as a pack, their use their collective talents and skills to overcome the prey as they collaboratively and methodically plan and stalk the hunt. Learning from their mistakes, they become more efficient with every outing. Every pack has a strategy and a goal – and all members of the pack know what this goal is before they go out on the hunt. There are rare cases of disorganization and failures are rare as their strategies are based on what they know what works and what doesn’t that makes the wolf strategy coherent and without controversy.

Lastly, wolf packs teach loyalty to the pack and constant training. Every pup is taught from the moment they are old enough to walk and are mentored by all in the pack who take their responsibility to train the pups voluntarily and instinctively. They know these pups are part of their future and their ability to survive the dangers. When the pack loses an elder pack member, their role is quickly filled because of the preparation put into sharing the knowledge.

Much like human organizations, “"giving people the opportunity and tools to improve themselves builds the type of loyalty that is an asset of inestimable worth.” If people would behave like wolves and use every means of communication at their disposal, they would improve their performance and knowledge by seeing and listening to everyone around them closely. The wolf’s power to observe is so finely honed in to be keen enough to detect subtle changes in each other’s behaviors as well as the pack’s.

Corrections.com author, Carl ToersBijns, (retired), has worked in corrections for over 25 yrs He held positions of a Correctional Officer I, II, III [Captain] Chief of Security Mental Health Treatment Center – Program Director – Associate Warden - Deputy Warden of Administration & Operations. Carl’s prison philosophy is all about the safety of the public, staff and inmates, "I believe my strongest quality is that I create strategies that are practical, functional and cost effective."

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