How Jane Goodall Pioneered Heart-Centered Leadership
5 min read
Jane Goodall Institute

Knowledge alone won’t change the world. When knowledge and love morph, dedicated action is born. Jane Goodall is the perfect embodiment of this concept. Jane changed the world without money, a university degree, or a fancy career. She changed the world by channeling her love and empathy. In this article, we discuss how she did it and what we can learn from her to create purposeful organizations.  This article sheds light on the conversation between Galitt Kenan, the Director of the Jane Goodall Institute in France; Cilla Henriette, a Partner and Business Humanizer at Innate Motion; and Shad Raouf, Show Host.

Fierce Empathy 

When Jane was in her 20s, and out of money, she was in Kenya searching for a job. There, a friend of hers introduced her to Louis Leakey – a Kenyan archaeologist and paleontologist. Experiencing the natural love she had for animals, Leaky invited Goodall to be the first woman ever to meet and live with the wild chimpanzees. 

Without a scientific background, Goodall made several scientific breakthroughs. For example, she learned that chimps are omnivores and not herbivores. Most notably, she found out that chimpanzees make and use tools. And just like that, the rank of the human in the Animal Kingdom was forever changed. Her revelation meant that humans were not superior to other animals, they were their peers. Prior to that discovery, the human ability to use and make tools was what distinguished us from the rest of the pack. 

Jane was able to uncover life-altering learnings not because of formal qualifications but because of fierce empathy. During her time with the chimpanzees, she didn’t assign them numbers as per the usual practice. Rather, she named them. She treated them as beings that deserve dignity, respect, and love. Love and hope were Jane’s secrets. Love brought her knowledge and together, love and knowledge compelled her to take action – which is why she eventually founded the Jane Goodall Institute. 

For a long time at the beginning of her journey loving and learning from chimpanzees, despite her impressive work, Jane wasn’t taken because she was a woman. It wasn’t until National Geographic snapped a photo of her with a chimp that the critics began to disappear. Jane became a symbol of female leadership. She embodied heart-centered leadership that was purposeful and groundbreaking. Her work is a testament to the intuitive nature of female leadership. Jane was able to discover through her love and empathy. Just as humans and the rest of the animal kingdom are interconnected in the tapestry of life; knowledge, love, and action, are undeniably interconnected as well. 


Radical Collaboration 

There are many organizations that work on animal protection. Plenty of capital is invested in scientific research concerning wildlife conservation and biodiversity. However, these efforts often have many shortcomings: they are fragmented, they are prescriptive, and they aren’t localized. 

It is scientifically proven that local communities, nature, and animals are always interconnected. Covid is a recent example of our interconnectedness. Mother teaches us that everyone has a significant role. Everything affects everything. Nothing really operates in a silo. Every slight change impacts biodiversity – which Jane called “the tapestry of life”. We are part of complex webs, not bubbles. We are connected to our environment in multiple ways. 

In alignment with the interconnectedness of nature and life, the Jane Goodall Institute focuses on empowering local communities to protect their local habitats. They believe that local communities should be in charge of conserving and being one with their own habitats. Their philosophy is that everything should be done by locals for locals. The logic is that locals have more at stake, a bigger reason to care. After all, their habitats are what affect their daily lives and livelihoods. 

“We’re trying to be very focused and to help the local population. They are the ones who decide what we are doing. We are providing them training and give them the tools, so they can develop.” – Galitt Kenan


Call for Change 

Other than a lack of localized efforts, the animal protection industry can occasionally be highly prescriptive. Rather than empowering locals to create their own local solutions to local challenges, many organizations enter territories where they don’t belong and tell people how to fix things. 

The way Jane Goodall and her institute do things allows us to reimagine what wildlife protection can look like instead. For example, instead of speaking to people about the importance of protecting the forest using numbers, reports, and jargon we can speak directly to people’s hearts instead. For people to be compelled to change, we have to replace humiliation with humility in our conversations. 

Galitt explains that storytelling can be a powerful tool to meet people where they are and talk with them rather than at them. She says that whenever Jane speaks to someone she makes them feel “as if they’re the only one.” Being present with people and inspiring them to think with us builds passion, passion builds knowledge, and together they inspire dedicated action. 

It is easy to be prescriptive and tell people what to do. It is more sustainable to give people the tools to carry themselves forward for generations, instead. An example of this is the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots and Shoots program. It is a program for youth to map their environments, discover the needs of their communities, and create their own solutions to these challenges. It is not a program that tells youth to arrive at specific solutions or to select particular problems – it is an authentically localized program. 


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