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Sitting in the Catbird Seat

WLA nyhistorical Cat and bird squeaky toy late...Image via Wikipedia

In his inaugural address, Gov. Terry Branstad told us that Iowa is at the "catbird seat of history." On Jan. 23, on Meet the Press, CNBC's Erin Burnett referred to some political figures "sitting in the catbird seat." It's obviously the place to be. What's that phrase mean for you as a leader? What does sitting in the catbird seat look like for you?

Catbirds, along with their cousins -- the mockingbirds -- are known as the mimic thrushes. The catbird is named for its ability to mimic the sound of a cat's meow. And here's where the "sitting" part comes in. They seek out the highest perches in trees to sing and show off. They're "sitting pretty," as the American phrase goes.

To mimic the sound of one of your most common enemies...that's pretty bold! Like asking for trouble. At the same time, the catbird is smart about where and how it's bold. It will stand alone, take a stand, be bold. But it's strategic in where and how it spreads its message.  

How does this relate to your role as a leader? Where and when do you need to be more bold? Maybe it would almost feel like being reckless in some way. And where and how can you do that in such a way that you're "sitting pretty?" You have the advantage; others can't help but hear what you're sharing. Your positioning is impeccable.

The first mention of Govenor Branstad's phrase showed up in James Thurber's 55 Short Stories from New Yorker, in November 1942:

"She must be a Dodger fan. Red Barber announces the Dodger games over the radio and he uses those expressions...'sitting in the catbird seat' means sitting pretty, like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him." That's the kind of balance we're all looking for, regardless of whom we're leading!

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