Leadership Lesson in Team Dynamics

Way back in 1985, I was visiting my great-uncle in Sligo – a gorgeous county on the west coast of Ireland. We walked around the farm taking care of the animals and all the incalculable chores associated with running a farm.

We passed a large field with about a dozen Connemara ponies and one solitary donkey.

Being an engineer and a “little bit” of a linear thinker, I figured that this situation was unintentional and that we would be separating the donkey and moving him back to where he belonged.

But when it became apparent that we were going to keep walking, I asked, “Aren’t we going to remove the donkey from that field?”

“No,” my great uncle replied, “He belongs in there.”

Well, my NY suburban upbringing didn’t quite prepare me for that answer, and my slightly annoying (at least to other people) OCD tendencies prohibited me from accepting that response without further inquiry.


“We always keep a mature donkey in with the horses because it keeps them calm, and they all “get-on” better.”


“Not sure – just does.”

Leadership Focus on Transferable Skills

Fast forward to earlier this year. I was meeting with one of my favorite mentees (full disclosure, they are all my favorites), and we discussed transferable skills, focusing on relationships and the roles that he plays that impact the engagement of his teammates and their overall performance.

Suddenly, and without thinking about how it might sound, I blurted out…

“You’re the donkey in the field!” (I will forever be grateful that at that moment, I didn’t say “ass in the field”)

This young gentleman has many skills, most of them transferable to a large number of roles. But by working through the Discovery* process, we both realized that his super-power was his ability to help the team “gel”, to  manage the personalities, interpret business needs for the techies, and translate technical constraints and options for the business folk.

He is the “ass in the field”, and every successful team needs one.

Questions Leaders ask 


  1. Do you have an ass in the field on your team?
  2. Do you know who it is?
  3. If you don’t, do you know how to find one?

I would love to continue the conversation! Comment below, email at: chris@ajito.io, or at ajito.io.

Happy Trails!


*Discovery Process: First phase of the Ajito Mentorship framework.
































































































































































































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