"All Things Big And Small"

Ministhy Dileep | July 26,2010 03:35 pm IST

In a recent training workshop on leadership, I received a beautiful article **. It spoke of some parables of leadership, akin to Zen stories picked up from Oriental literature.

Crisp as haiku, lovely as sunlight on flowers, humbling in its applicability to daily life. It was about discovering leadership tips from the most unexpected places. From all things big and small.


Essentially it reflected the wisdom of the following prayer: "May everything animate and inanimate on earth become my teachers."


The qualities that were highlighted in the parables were as follows *** : -
Ability of a leader to hear what is left unspoken
Humility along with the ability to absorb, broaden and grow as leaders
Strong commitment to the cause one represents
Ability to look at reality from different perspectives
Ability to play master craftsman, by drawing out the unique talents of one's team members


The forest taught the first lesson. By listening to the "other side of silence" ****, the protagonist discovers sounds of the blooming of flowers and of the grass lapping up dew. All amidst the cacophony of the ordinary and loud. The skill of a leader, says the wise master, is in observing the unseen, listening to the unheard, and seeing beyond the superficial. 


The second parable compares the power of the fire and the water. The self-centric, fire-like leadership burns bright, only to die down fast. The water like leadership survives by constantly travelling to broader, deeper, wider horizons, by humbly absorbing every learning that comes its way... in an ever-marvelous journey to excellence.


The babbling brook is small compared to the big lake. However, it has flow and force, which the placid lake doesn't possess. The power of the brook to carry off anything on its surface is like a leader who carries the entire team with him due to his commitment to the common vision. The static lake resembles the leader who is unable to command the loyalty of his team, though the resources in his control are tremendous. 


The wisdom of the mountain is about the sights seen at different vantagepoints. The leader, who sticks to his ivory tower, will never realize the sights, smells and sounds that power his subordinates. If he desires to appreciate the reality from different perspectives, he has to garner information from different levels of his organization. 


The master craftsman shapes a bowl from clay and space. The strength of a wheel comes from spokes placed at appropriate distances from one another by a clever hand. A leader is one who assigns a proper place for every unique talent in his team and carves out the spaces that join them together. He also gives credit to his team members whenever due, and they in return, move closer to him in their commitment and devotion. 


Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote, "I am sure there is magic in everything, only we have not sense enough to get hold of it and make it do things for us." The Leadership Parables tell us about the magical lessons hidden in symbols of nature. 


Not everyone appreciates such possibilities for learning.
"The possible's slow fuse is lit
By the Imagination"


If imagination has to do its work, one has to be open-minded. So next time you take that much needed breather, look around with clear eyes. That sparker for clinching that corporate deal, just might be hiding behind the flowers. Enjoy Bruce Springsteen while you go check the flowerpot.


"Now mama, don't you worry none. From small things, mama, big things one day come..." 



Ministhy S. is PG (PM&IR) from XLRI-Jamshedpur, and currently, an IAS officer working in the UP cadre. She has written five books - 'Unequal Equations', 'Learning with Tippy Tortoise: Tales for Kids', 'Happy Birthday: Poems for Kids' and a novel published by Dronequill Publishers, Bangalore....