Using a fable I read recently, I share your story about smart leadership.
I thought I would use a story today to illustrate a point. I want to give Keith Rosen at KeithRosen.com credit for sharing the story.
Once upon a time, there was a wise and noble king. The king lived a happy life with his beautiful wife. A few years after they were married, his wife became very ill and sadly died soon after. Unfortunately, this tragedy occurred before having children so the king was left to rule without his wife beside him. He was devastated by his loss, but kept his commitment to rule with honor and take care of the people in his kingdom. The longer that his wife was so strong he could not bear the thought of marrying again.
As the years passed, having no children of his own, the king knew he would have to find the right man (it's always a matter of the stories) to take his place as ruler of the kingdom. There was no bloodline and no son who would rightfully take the throne. He called upon the people of the kingdom to help him to succeed him. He knew there would be a test that would help identify the most promising candidate.
One day as the king is taking a walk through the countryside, he came across a HUGE sinkhole that was so large that you could fit at least 2 football fields within it. Suddenly, he thinks to himself, "I've got it! I know the test will help you identify the next king "quickly he returned to the castle to share his ideas with his advisers. Him
The next day, the King issued a decree throughout the kingdom. "Come one. Come all. In 3 weeks time, those of you who feel worthy enough to take my place will meet in the tower square to demonstrate why you should be the one to be the heir to the kingdom."
The day finally arrived and it seemed like thousands of people gathered in the town square with the dream of being chosen as the heir to the throne. The king took the people out to the countryside to show them what he had found. He then asks this question, "what should I do? This is the question that if you answer correctly will earn you your rightful place as our next king. "
After several days in hundreds of responses later no one what had come up with the right answer. Repeatedly, the king would hear the same responses – – fill it with rocks and dirt.. Fill it with water. Build a bridge over the sinkhole. Build a wall. Put signs around it. Make it a graveyard. Leave it be. Camouflage the sinkhole to protect us from our enemies.
While some of these were interesting ideas, none was the correct answer. The king became discouraged, wondering if anyone could act like a successful king. As the number of candidates start to dwindle to the remaining few, it became time for one young man to answer the king's question. A poor farm boy from the countryside who is ridiculed by those older and wiser for even considering the possibility of being king,
"So," spoke the king with a disheartened and disinterested tone, "
The young man hesitated for a moment and then responded with, "Why do anything?"
Suddenly, the king's mood changed. He looked at the young man and asked with hope, "Why? When everyone advise me what I can do with the sinkhole, why are you the only one to advise me not at all or tell me what I should do? Why do you come to me with only a question? "
The young man responded by saying, "I cannot respond, my King, I don't know your 'why.' Until I understand, not just what you want to do, but why you want to do anything about the sinkhole, only then can I discuss your desired outcome. Until then, the only course of action is to do nothing."
So, folks, this was the magic answer. Instead of telling the king what he could do, this young man simply asked the king one question – – a simple question that is so powerful and usually overlooked – – why?
After all, how do you decide whether you want to align with others if you don't know why? How can you do it unless you understand your motivations, intentions, reasons, beliefs… Why is it important to them?
I will simply say that for this young man it was the right answer. It was the answer that allows him to become king.
The other people asked, " why this boy?" The king told them, "I never wanted to fix anything. Everyone came to me with the solution to what they thought was a problem and told me how to fix it. They never took the time to uncover and understand my 'why.' My desired intention. My point of view. This young man was the only one insightful enough to uncover my intention and my point of view. "
For you becoming a leader, you have to understand what your people want and expect from you and why they want it. When leading a team, you have to develop an inspired and shared goal and vision. They don't just simply need to understand what they have to do. After all, managers can do that. To lead, you have to give them the sense within themselves as to why they are doing something.
Ideally, this comes from within, rather than through motivation. Inspiration rather than motivation. Inspiration is the quality within us; motivation is that behavioral saying that says we will get X number of responses if we do such and such.
Just to conclude, for you, leading groups of people, why do you want to do something? Why should they do something? Can you create a shared vision for your group?
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves life coaching, as well as executive job search coaching and leadership coaching.
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