Lessons in leadership from the fable of The Peacock and the Crane

Some leaders do all they can to appear to lead. Others lead.

Have you ever had a boss who had to go to all of the “important” meetings even though they did not understand the detail which was to be discussed in the meeting? Ever had the same boss then ask you for a briefing on the details so they could be “up-to-speed”, instead of just inviting you along to the meeting?

Ever had a boss determined to be always visible to senior management as part of a strategy to advance their career? One might even go so far as to call them the “Visibility Manager”, such is their passion to be seen to be doing.

Ever had a boss so self-absorbed that they neglect to develop their staff’s intellectual and emotional intelligence?

If you have worked for a while it is probable that you will have had a boss with some or all of these traits. They may well have been successful as well, measured by the results of their strategy, at least temporarily.

Their behaviour reminds me of Aesop’s fable of The Peacock and the Crane.

A Peacock spreading its gorgeous tail mocked a Crane that passed by, ridiculing the ashen hue of its plumage and saying, “I am robed, like a king, in gold and purple and all the colours of the rainbow; while you have not a bit of colour on your wings.”

“True,” replied the Crane; “but I soar to the heights of heaven and lift up my voice to the stars, while you walk below, like a cock, among the birds of the dunghill.”

Leaders who do what is necessary to get noticed rather than embolden their people to do what they thought they could not and achieve what seemed unreasonable, are not leaders. They are mere peacocks.

Leadership is about a leader and followers. Leaders model the behaviours they want from their followers. Leaders demonstrate what is possible.

Leaders are noticed. They do not need to manage their visibility.

They are noticed because of the clarity and power of an idea and the drive they demonstrate in enabling the idea.

They are noticed by the strength and the independence of the people who follow them.

They are noticed by what their teams achieve, not by what meetings they attend.

Careers may be built on political posturing and managing visibility. Self belief, self-satisfaction and true respect are built on leading yourself and leading others.

To lead well, one needs to be self-aware and self-regulate. How aware are you of any tendencies to be the peacock rather than the crane? Ask your colleagues and subordinates.

Comments are closed.