• Service Leadership

Phanuels Golden Rules

Posted by Robin on Tue January 5, 2016 in Wamvenga Stories.

In South Africa the term “spoor” is mainly used to indicate the tracks of an animal or person. Spoor can be simple tracks in the sand of a riverbed but it goes further than that. It can also include flattened grass, scrapings on trees, scattered seeds or maybe broken off branches. Even the smell that an animal left behind belongs to the kingdom of “spoor”. This short tale explains how trailing spoor or tracks can help you increase your leadership awareness and reach your goals in life.

Phanuel indicated to me to be as quiet as possible and get down behind a dense clump of sandpaper raisin bush. I couldn’t make out what he was looking at. Could this be the female leopard we were tracking now for over 3 hours in the vicinity of camp 4....? The three of us, all experienced guides, had asked Phanuel a week ago to take us on a trailing class. He happily agreed and this morning we were making good progress under his skill full guidance, each one of us taking the lead in turns, following the spoor of this young female leopard over all sorts of terrain and even straight through a deserted camp. At the start of our morning walk we received four instructions from Phanuel at the moment we saw her track beautifully preserved on the road about 200 meters east of Juva Lapa camp. The first out of the four of Phanuel’s trailing golden rules was “be positive and confident that you will find the leopard”.

The second instruction was; “walk with a clear mind and be present in the moment”. The third golden rule was “walk into the leopard footsteps” and the last and final rule was ; “look up, otherwise you might bump into her”. I had doubts if Phanuel wasn’t just teasing us with this last one.... but off we went. Along the way I noticed that the golden rules proofed to be not as easy as they sounded. During my minutes leading the trailing group of four I forgot regularly about Phanuels golden rules and was often drifting away from the present moment thinking about other things that needed to be done once back at camp. This was not helpful at all and I immediately lost the spoor. To make it all worse, I found myself often so involved in the spoor on the ground that I often forgot to step-back and look up around me.

I missed some tell-tale signs such as the leopard marking scratches on a Marula tree-trunk and the buttery smell of her spray-marking, always pointed out by Phanuel . The third golden sounded the easiest rule but even that one proofed more difficult for me as I thought it would be. I didn’t want to destroy the leopard tracks with my own tracks afraid as I was to loose vital information. So, I didn’t walk into her tracks. The result was almost immediately loosing the leopard spoor. I was thinking about all this when Phanuel caught my attention and indicated me to hide behind the sandpaper raisin bush. He pointed with his eyes and a small nod of his head in the direction to look at. I could vaguely see a white tipped tail moving through the undergrowth and little feeding sounds were coming through now as well. The leopard had caught a vervet monkey and was feeding on it apparently unaware of our approach.

Softly she was breaking and chewing on the bones. My heart skipped a beat and I felt overwhelmed with the privilege of receiving this magnificent reward for our tracking efforts. Jack whispered surprised next to me: "we found her?”. It didn’t take long for her to notice our little group as well and she slipped further into the undergrowth. It was though some one had thrown an invisibility cloth on her and she disappeared. On our way back to the car it rang home to me that missing-out on Phanuel's golden rules was valid for the things happening in my own life as for trailing a leopard that morning. Especially the first two rules rang bells in my head. Was my leadership awareness not often distracted by thoughts and not present in the moment, subsequently missing out of the magic in my life and missing obvious answers to my questions? Why was I often not confident and not positive when my life took a new direction or when I was faced with a test of heart? I must remember the leadership awareness lessons that the leopard gave us that morning when we found her with Phanuel!