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A Rebel's


What A Killer Whale Whispered to Me

Lessons on Leadership Through Nature's Lens


Siri Østvold

In the cold and gloomy Norwegian waters, my heart rate was naturally lowered by the cold waters. Syncing into the ocean’s beat, awaiting an encounter that would further define my understanding of my role within and as nature. In the dark blue, only lit up by glistening fish scales, remains from the predator's hunt, I met him - Lenny Melvin, a majestic orca bull. As a freediver and ocean lover, I've been fortunate to share waters with many magnificent creatures. But this encounter was more than a little dive; it was a dialogue with nature,  whispers of, for me, profound lessons that everyone can adopt in their leadership style.

Reading Time

5 Minutes

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The Courage of Vulnerability

There, in the cold embrace of the ocean, vulnerability encircled me. Confronted by Lenny Melvin, whose sheer size and presence could dwarf any human ego, I experienced a deep insight. In our vulnerability lies our greatest strength. I had to trust that me being just me, composed, open, and being fully seen - facing the bull respectfully eye to eye was the only way to interact. In leadership, this translates to a willingness to expose our true selves, to acknowledge our fears and uncertainties. It's in these unguarded moments that we find authentic courage, the kind that inspires and empowers those around us. 

Similarly, great leaders recognize the power of vulnerability. As Brené Brown beautifully articulates, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” It's not about displaying invincibility, but about being open and genuine. When leaders embrace their vulnerabilities, they create a space of trust and openness, encouraging their team to do the same. This fosters a culture of honesty and genuine connection, where innovation and growth can flourish.

Acceptance and adaptation

As I was diving down and up and down again, between the worlds of air and water, and watched Lenny Melvin glide effortlessly through his domain, I also realized the beauty of acceptance. If the Orca would have wanted to end my life, it could have in a second. I had to simply accept I was not in control, and that my immediate future was in its hands. In the ocean, as in leadership, there are elements beyond our control. The tide turns, the currents shift, and we must adapt. Even solid strategies, plans and goals need to adapt to the changing environment. And acceptance of not having total control doesn't signify weakness; rather, it highlights a leader’s wisdom in understanding the dynamic nature of life and business. The faster we learn to identify what we can't control, the faster we can act on the things we can. 

In the realm of leadership, the lesson is clear: control is not absolute. It’s about guiding rather than ruling, about adapting strategies to changing circumstances. The role of the leader is to ensure vitality in the system, not to be the chief controller of everything. The best leaders are those who can navigate uncertainty with grace, and understand that the strength of their leadership lies in their ability to adapt and empower others to find their path within the broader vision.

Nature’s Wisdom

In the presence of the orca, nature’s intricate tapestry unfolded before me. The orca pod, a symbol of communal harmony and intergenerational wisdom, mirrored the ideal of a cohesive team. Each member, from the playful calf to the wise matriarch, plays a vital role. Witnessing this dynamic firsthand, created a memory I can't unsee: nature will always be wiser than us, so we should learn from it. 

This is just one of nature’s lessons in leadership – the value of every individual’s contribution and the power of shared knowledge and experience. It reminds us of the importance of fostering a team where each member's unique skills and experiences are valued and nurtured. Like the orca pod, a successful team thrives on collaboration, mutual respect, and the sharing of knowledge across generations. It's a reminder that in the grand ecosystem of our organizations, every role is crucial, and every voice holds the potential to contribute to the collective success.

As I left the waters that day, the echoes of my encounter with Lenny Melvin lingered. The orca, in his silent majesty, had imparted lessons that went beyond the ocean - lessons of vulnerability, adaptability, and interconnectedness. These are lessons not confined to those that adventure in the ocean but hopefully can resonate deeply with anyone who aspires to lead with empathy, flexibility, and a profound respect for the interconnectedness of all things. 

If you would like to explore or collaborate on creating an experience or retreat for your team that will encourage them to conciously think about their team potential, reach out to us at or apply here: Application for Collaboration

Behind the Image

Reflection on the day the picture was taken

"We need a different view of the world than what we inherited. A multidimentional understanding, where the depths and the creatures of the Oceans are included in the story. Magical and real at the same time. A new story that leads the way for a new way of seeing, being and co-creating.

A foundation for an abundant future, where thriving wildlife and diverse nature is the true value. And we are a part of that. Not by depleting resources, but by taking an active role as a part of functional ecosystems. Where we live in reciprocity with nature.

A worldview where the Ocean is at the center, giving life, health and joy."

Photo Credit: Scott Wilson

Siri Østvold Instagram

Original Post Link

Key Takeaways

Embracing the Courage of Vulnerability: Leadership flourishes when we embrace our vulnerabilities, creating a culture of trust, openness, and authentic strength.

Acceptance and adaptation: True leadership lies in understanding and adapting to the uncontrollable, guiding with wisdom and creating space for the dynamic and interconnected nature of life and business.

Nature's Wisdom: The natural world, especially the societal dynamics of orcas, teaches us about the importance of every team member's role and the power of shared knowledge, mirroring the essence of effective leadership.

Rebel's Eye Anchor

Rebel's Eye 

A Personal Acceptance Moment

Adapting to the cold Arctic waters is not what I would call pleasant, wearing a thick neoprene suit and heavy dive-weights around your waist, and your face all numb because of the cold water you’re immersed in. But who are we to believe we need to be comfortable all the time? What is the growth in that? You do get used to the cold – in fact, you start to embrace it.

When you manage to accept and relax it suddenly becomes a different experience. You focus your energy on what matters, your immediate surroundings, and then you take it all in; The snow covered mountains glowing in the precious and limited sunshine of the day, screaming excited seagulls circling a fishing boat, the vague outline of a humpback in the deep, their voices and the way it echoes in the water. The sudden moment of some fish close by, and then your laser focus into the dark trying to get a glimpse of all the life you hear and feel so vividly around you, and that you are an integrated part of. The experience is serene and intense at the same time. The only thing you can do is to be an attentive observer of your environment, of the behavioral nature of the orcas and humpbacks, and be respectful in every movement and interaction. And let the knowing and appreciation sink in – that this ocean with its life is really what creates the opportunity for life above the water.

Photo Credit: Jonas Beyer

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What A Killer Whale Whispered to Me

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