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Black Swan Events From the Dreamtime To the Relational Leader.

No amount of observations of white swans can allow the inference that all swans are white, but the observation of a single black swan is sufficient to refute that conclusion. — David Hume
A black swan on a lake


Just because something is not seen or is not perceived does not mean that it doesn’t or won’t exist. That is the case about Black Swans. Often people have a closed view or a narrow perception of things. Rare, surprising events are termed Black Swan events. In bygone Europe, the cauldron of standard learning, saw only white swans and naturally concluded that there was no such thing as a black swan. Narrow-minded viewpoints stifle vision especially if all in a group think a like without challenging the narrative and being curious about pondering further when all in consensus.

Experience can be telling; it can also be limiting. For now, the moment never lasts and change, and unexpected crises are just around the corner soon. The future is a steam roller that flattens the past into entirely new shapes. Only considering what you can or have seen is called sight. Vision is seeing what you cannot presently see, but you can gather the possibilities of what is coming.


Executives who are responsible for the continuity and prosperity of their business cannot just mark time in their thinking but must set aside time for research into present trends (not just rely on some reports of innovations coming to their desk ) and with creative thinking consider what will be. The new possibilities are not here, or you would already be using them; they are just around future’s corner waiting for someone to bother to come and get them. Your daily decisions make the future.

It is difficult to imagine beyond one’s own experience or beyond a consensus of opinions, however, to be continually and not just temporarily successful a business, its executives, who need to allocate time and effort to delve into what the future will be like in new processes products.

Whatever you have now or are doing now will not be the same soon, so why not look at future possibilities.

Just as meditation is useful prior to a fighting bout, so is creative thinking without a set agenda, useful prior to forging ahead into the business arena of competition.

The Status Quo is not the Status Quo of the past even though the Status Quo means accepting what is. No one operates today on the processes or technology of centuries ago. Trying to remain relevant in the ever-quickening onrush of time the Status Quo of the near future in particular of technologies will not be that of today.

Given the current environment of new and emerging systems. Don't become a victim. Book now to make sure that you and your systems are up for the task of surviving a crises.


To get an idea of the origins of Black Swans and how they come to exist, we go back to many thousands of years (currently between 40,000-60,000 years ago) a time of pre-science, pre- technology, barren lands, deserts, coastal regions, and unique flora and fauna in the far-off land that we currently call Australia.

When there were no books, no universities, storytelling was the practice of sharing knowledge from generation to generation, tribe to tribe, the sharing truths of what is observed, shared information, experienced at first hand and how everything fits together in a bigger picture. Knowledge comes in many forms and methods processes that work for some can be also used by others, after adjustments.

In Australia there are both white and black swans. The inhabitants of this land, the Australian Aboriginal peoples, existed with their minds moving through periods of visions and visualisations called “The Dreamtime.” This period was unbounded with stories of experiences, observations and spirituality which used art, song, and dance as a means for communicating as well as acknowledging the existence of phenomena. The Dreamtime was the way of interpretation of data, in how their accounts of the world were recorded for over thousands of centuries and have been kept animated in modern days.

In an extracted version, according to Charles P. Mountford, a well-known ethnologist, “The Dreamtime story projects that two white swans were resting on a lagoon and were unaware of the fact that the lagoon was in the ownership of Eagle Hawks, savage predatory birds whose strong claws would clutch and destroy other wildlife. Of course, the Eagle Hawks were unimpressed with the white swan intruders and set upon them, viciously attacking them. They flew with these swans held in their sharp claws and went from their land as far south as possible. The Eagle Hawks tore away at the swan’s bodies, stripping off their white feathers, until they finally dropped the bodies of the swans onto rocks in a stony desert.
Into this tragedy in the desert came the black mountain crows who called out to the swans and said, “The Eagle Hawks are our enemies too and we won’t let you die.” “We will send down on a breeze some of our black feathers to keep you warm, and when you are well, they will help you to fly.” The torn out scattered white feathers grew into dainty little flowers among the rocks, the split blood of the swans formed into blossoms of scarlet heaths.” In the Aboriginal world nothing is wasted. Nature utilizes and recycles all resources.
“Ever since then, all the swans in the area, with exception of some white feathers in their wings, have feathers that are as black as the crows which clad their body from nakedness and helped them to fly again” (Mountford, 1971)

The Dreamtime, the past from which all present things came to be, has significance in Aboriginal cultures, the stories, and concepts from it shared for many generations across Australia for over forty thousand years.


The link between this story, of how Black Swans came to be, by assistance from others in a crisis, is a lesson applicable to what we know as Black Swan events today.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, makes a connection to Australia in his book The Black Swan - The Impacts of The Highly Improbable.

If it wasn’t through expanding their minds and their economic opportunities by daring to set sail across the high seas, the Europeans would not have discovered black swans. They would not have expanded their perceptions that something like black swans existed. When you expand your horizons, you inevitably meet the unexpected. Such discoveries challenged the old school of thought and the scientific world. What is known can maintain a complacency, but most things are outside of that nutshell of knowledge and in that vast ocean of reality are the many Black Swan events just waiting to happen and damage or enrich one’s fortunes. Best to know what lies ahead before your boat hits the rocks.


Black Swan events are just as rare and surprising as those Eagle Hawks who attacked in The Dreamtime storytelling. The Eagle Hawks were the scourge of the black mountain crows and the white swans only found that out later when they needed a friend. It is interesting to realise that the black mountain crows formed a trusting relationship with the white swans at the time. This collates to the prudence of seeking connections to and knowing about other cultures, other systems, and other people with skills. A common purpose leads to networking and expanded knowledge and resources. These all need to be available prior to any crisis. This is significant in this topic and will be discussed further on.

History is littered with divergent events. Good tactics deployed have amounted to successful outcomes. For instance, the gift horse that concealed soldiers of the Greek army in its belly only to surprise the unexpected enemy with an attack. Even the Scots with their bagpipes and wearing kilts in the lead up to battle can be seen as a psychological diversion to the unsuspecting enemy who were not expecting to be so entertained. It could be implied that while the Scots were advancing to battle, their enemies were making jokes about the Scots weapons of choice, and in the end, this psychological narrative caused the enemy’s demise.

Music can tap into emotions, and it can soothe, it can inspire, it can also be used to work up the courage of those going into battle.


In more recent times, the attacks of 9/11 were indeed Black Swan events.

In the buildings involved, the emergency systems and called leaders of those systems were tested in their contingencies, communicating with others, their courage, their adaptability, and dependability. So were the trusting relationships between them and their colleagues tested.

The shock, despair and disbelief of 9/11 that ensued, forever changed the world in how the Western world views its safety and security, and liberties were lost due to a malicious group of people. But what became even clearer that followed on from this Black Swan event was determination and acclimation of the human spirit, the building and rebuilding of relationships that had formed across many levels of world governments, organisations, and individuals themselves.

At an individual level, there will come a time when someone somewhere at some point in their lives either has or will have experienced a Black Swan event that changes their path in life.

Even in our recent times, there have been many Black Swan events that have to do with the way we connect in the world with globalisation. Our technology companies often go about testing to see how secure their own or their client’s product is. System audits are often conducted to ensure compliance and ensure standards are maintained.

We utilise many layers of security in the hopes of countering a potential hacker from accessing our data and denying our service to customers for a sum of money as in a ransom attack.


Does Relational Leadership fit in with the prevention and overcoming of Black Swan events?

Forming relationships goes beyond their mentioning in Dreamtime stories such as with black mountain crows and the white swans.

As leaders we will at some point be faced with uncertainty and the unknown as also the "what if's". It is through building relationships, we become reliant on others to help us, so, in incorporating others within our network we can finally become, in or then larger self, self-reliant. Just like the Dreamtime story, the Black Mountain Crows who through their willingness to build relationships, formed trust with White Swans. The white swans from then on, with a larger and more resilient network than before, became that much more self-reliant.

Regarding human associations, we can prosper if those relations allow the deduction of various ways that drive the advancement and execution of tasks.

Relationships are the vital connection that promotes trust. Leadership is a practice, where outcomes are based upon the reasonable and manageable relations between numerous or divergent elements. This builds a sense of overall understanding of such elements and their relationships by people and associations alike.


Taking the approach used to work from stress by taking “Leadership is an action" for example: having a culture of trust, honesty, commitment, flexibility, dexterity, instinct, determination, and multifaceted nature requires action.


Leadership that is relational allows for sharing of confidential information with trusted others, allows for creativity, diversity and genuine open engagement between leaders and their teams. When we consider the ‘what if’s’, our control mechanisms will secure our interests, to succeed in this, we must convey with others our needs, and build trust in relationships that will help us to be self-reliant.

Ready to leverage your self identity, your image and create better relationships built on trust and authenticity. Book a consultation today and let's propel your business forward.

Catherine Halse© 2019- updated 2023 All rights reserved.

A chameleon on a tree branch


Mountford, C. P. (1971). Heritage of the Black Swans. In C. P. Mountford, The First Sunrise (pp. 24,25). Rigby.

Taleb, N. N. (2007). The Black Swan The Impact of the Highly Improbable. England: Penquin.


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