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Confronting Reality or Passing the Buck?

One of my favorite quotes is:

“There are only two ways to fail: Listen to no one or listen to everyone.”

When you are new to a job or business, it is important to find mentors who will encourage and guide you through the rough waters. Having a mentor is important, so choose wisely.

Ensure you are listening to someone who has achieved the future results you desire.  Everyone will offer you their opinion, but sort through the noise and follow your mentors with results.

When you become a leader, the challenge is more subtle.

As a leader, you must be humble enough to hear the truth from your team.  When you stop listening, you stop learning.  It is important to have a subordinate who can speak openly with you.

In the Biblical story, David was blessed with a Nathaniel to speak openly with him and call him out in love.  Every leader needs a Nathaniel to graciously keep the leader living up to the high calling of leadership.

Robert Greenleaf said,

“Even the frankest and bravest of subordinates do not talk with their boss the same way they talk with colleagues.”

I am not suggesting subordinates blast their superiors, but I am suggesting that leaders should find wise counselors who can speak candidly.

Warren Buffet is the greatest leadership investor of the modern era.  When Warren Buffet speaks about companies, other people should listen.  Buffet said,

“Of one thing be certain: If a CEO is enthused about a particularly foolish acquisition, both his internal staff and his outside advisors will come up with whatever projections are needed to justify his stance. Only in fairy tales are emperors told that they are naked.”

Most people and organizations do not confront reality.  Instead of addressing reality and thinking through the issues, they pass the buck and cast blame.

I have never seen a long-term success that will not confront reality and accept responsibility.

See what you can learn from the following fable.

The Lion & His Subordinates: A Fable

Once upon a time a severe plague raged among the animals.

Many died, and those who lived were so ill, that they cared for neither food nor drink, and dragged themselves about listlessly.

No longer could a fat young hen tempt Master Fox to dinner, nor a tender lamb rouse greedy Sir Wolf’s appetite.

At last the Lion decided to call a council. When all the animals were gathered together he arose and said:

“Dear friends, I believe the gods have sent this plague upon us as a punishment for our sins. Therefore, the most guilty one of us must be offered in sacrifice. Perhaps we may thus obtain forgiveness and cure for all.

“I will confess all my sins first. I admit that I have been very greedy and have devoured many sheep. They had done me no harm. I have eaten goats and bulls and stags. To tell the truth, I even ate up a shepherd now and then.

“Now, if I am the most guilty, I am ready to be sacrificed. But I think it best that each one confess his sins as I have done. Then we can decide in all justice who is the most guilty.”

“Your majesty,” said the Fox, “you are too good. Can it be a crime to eat sheep, such stupid mutton heads? No, no, your majesty. You have done them great honor by eating them up.

“And so far as shepherds are concerned, we all know they belong to that puny race that pretends to be our masters.”

All the animals applauded the Fox loudly. Then, though the Tiger, the Bear, the Wolf, and all the savage beasts recited the most wicked deeds, all were excused and made to appear very saint-like and innocent.

It was now the Ass’s turn to confess.

“I remember,” he said guiltily, “that one day as I was passing a field belonging to some priests, I was so tempted by the tender grass and my hunger, that I could not resist nibbling a bit of it.

I had no right to do it, I admit—”

A great uproar among the beasts interrupted him. Here was the culprit who had brought misfortune on all of them! What a horrible crime it was to eat grass that belonged to someone else!

It was enough to hang anyone for, much more an Ass.

Immediately they all fell upon him, the Wolf in the lead, and soon had made an end to him, sacrificing him to the gods then and there, and without the formality of an altar.

Assignment:  How many different moral lessons can you identify from the fable?  Which moral lessons can you apply immediately to improve your leadership?


Orrin Woodward is the co-founder of Team, a leadership development and training company, and the New York Times best-selling co-author of Launching a Leadership Revolution.

Named by the International Association of Business as a Top 10 Leadership Guru, he is dedicated to building leaders and entrepreneurs and promoting freedom and prosperity.

Orrin blogs regularly at Orrin Woodward. He lives in Port St. Lucie, Florida with his wife and four children.

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  1. Sounds like pride is the enemy and humility is the ally. Pride will hurt and/or destroy an organization but being humble enough to take personal responsibility will create solutions and growth within an organization. Reminds me of the saying, “when you point at any one person there are three fingers pointing back at you.” So will you hate losing enough to change, or hate changing enough to lose? Thanks Orrin. God bless


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