“When the Wind Changes”

Posted by jlubans on January 30, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: A fond farewell.
The authors of the spiders and starfish book
mention Mary Poppins as a fictional example of a starfish leader. This rare type of leader knows when it is time to leave and then, even though it would be easy to stay, leaves. Doing so liberates and strengthens the organization to move on and up.
The Mary Poppins film is rich in metaphor. I use it in my management classes to talk about job announcements and descriptions – the father’s list of required qualities for a nanny, contrasted with the children’s list of desirables, is far more entertaining and instructive than anything I could say about this desert-dry topic. And I use the film in my coaching classes. In the film’s “Spoonful of Sugar” sequence, Ms. Poppins demonstrates to her two charges how a positive attitude can make boring work, like picking up one’s room, fun. In the right hands, this coaching technique can shift the intractable to the engaged.
Near the end of the film – with the blue bird of happiness a-wing -there comes a literal shift in wind direction. This is important because Mary Poppins has agreed to stay only until the wind changes. With the weathervane’s spin, alas, it is time to leave. “Don’t you love us” pleads the little girl. Mary responds: “And what would happen to me, may I ask, if I loved all the children I said goodbye to?
Of course, that’s the point; she does love all the children, which makes leaving, letting go, that much more painful. And so it may be for the leader who has invested her all in an organization’s well being and growth. What is the leader’s role once the dragon’s been slain?

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Caption: Patiently enduring the parrot's back talk.
Mary Poppins departure is a mix of bittersweet emotions. Julie Andrews’ evocative face mingles the pride of a job well done (the family’s new-found happiness) to a sadness-near-tears about leaving. Of course, Mary Poppins keeps a stiff upper lip: “Practically perfect people never let sentiment muddle their thinking,” she adages. The parrot, who’s been ragging her about the family’s seeming ingratitude, sums it up: “You don’t fool me a bit!”
The bittersweet ending reminds me of an essay by Charles Handy about the sigmoid-shaped curve of corporate life. (See my Chapter 26: You Can’t Build a Fire in the Rain: Sparking Change in Libraries)
Mr. Handy offers contrarian wisdom. The reforming leader, one taking a company from bankruptcy to profitability, reversing the organization’s downward direction, may well need to leave after the company has achieved its new upward curve. To stay is to tempt a flattening of the curve, a loss of momentum, an unwillingness to move further up.
I saw something like this when I was part of a long-delayed and frustrated initiative to lift a traditional organization onto a new curve to better serve and to deliver a better product. A new leader, with carte blanche from the central administration, asked me to work with him and his agenda. I did so gladly. After five years of many struggles but good results, we had achieved a genuine turn-around.
And, if we are to believe Mr. Handy, it was probably time for my boss (and for me) to leave. We had gone further up the mountain than any previous administration. There was plenty more to do and there were new challenges but we began to slow down. My boss chose to stay and took on an expanded portfolio of responsibilities. I remained as well. But, circumstances had changed – significantly there was a new leader of the central administration. Moving up the mountain become incrementally more difficult each year. On reflection, a new leadership – new faces - in the 6th year might have been better for the organization. With the positive vibe from the first five years, we might have recruited a new leader, one with an equally innovative and adventurous spirit to reach new heights.
Several years later, my leader departed and the organization plateaued out, if not dipped back to the traditional model, seemingly in reaction to the innovation and achievement of those first five years.
However sad, when the wind changes, it may well be time to leave.

Friday Fable. Aesop’s “THE DOG-CATCHER AND THE DOG”*

Posted by jlubans on January 25, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

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“A man saw a dog walking by and threw him some bits of food. The dog then said to the man, 'O man, keep away from me! All your well-wishing warns me to be even more on my guard.'

This fable shows that people who offer to give someone many gifts are no doubt trying to deceive him.”**

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Caption: Mark Twain's stove-top cat.
The appended moral is largely common sense. Certainly, if a stranger stops his car and offers a young child candy, the child should say “No, thank you!” and scramble home to Ma and Pa.
However, morals tend to be absolute, kind of like Mark Twain’s cat. The cat sat on a hot stove-lid and got burned. “She will never sit on a hot stove-lid again, and that is well; but she’ll never sit down on a cold one any more.”
I’ve encountered some of that in the workplace. I was a newly appointed manager, following on the heels of a departed micromanager. Things were not in good shape, so one of my first actions was to talk with staff and elicit their ideas. That’s just the way I work; staff know what we need to do to get better. So, I asked. Some, like the dog in the fable, and the once-burned cat, clammed up, never volunteering ideas or suggestions. Apparently, their ideas had been repeatedly rejected – even ridiculed – by the former micromanager. A few of the staff gave me the benefit of the doubt, and more than a few ideas. A mutual respect and trust soon blossomed; they saw I applied the suggestion or told them to act on it. We improved, mightily.

*Source: Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.
**Translator’s Note: “The man in this fable is called a 'hunter' (or perhaps a 'thief,' as one editor has conjectured); he appears to be a kind of 'dog thief' or 'dog catcher.' In another version of the story the man is a thief throwing food to a watchdog.”

PS. Speaking of Mark Twain with whom I share a fondness for San Francisco, you can find a copy of Leading from the Middle nearby.

The Maieutic Mojo

Posted by jlubans on January 23, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

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“Maieutic” is a spelling bee word if there ever was one. It came to me a while back as a Word-of-the-Day. It’s stayed with me because of its etymology:
The word derives “from ‘maieutikos,’ the Greek word for ‘of midwifery.’ In one of Plato's ‘Dialogues,’ Socrates applies ‘maieutikos’ to his method of bringing forth new ideas by reasoning and dialogue; he thought the technique analogous to those a midwife uses in delivering a baby (Socrates’ mother was a midwife)”.
The midwife metaphor is also used to describe the Taoist non-leader:
“Imagine you are a midwife; you are assisting at someone else’s birth.
Do good without show or fuss.
Facilitate what is happening rather than what you think ought to be happening.
If you must take the lead, lead so that the mother is helped, yet still free and in charge.
When the baby is born the mother will rightly say, ‘We did it ourselves.’”*
For me, this is leading from the middle, and demonstrates a leadership that trusts, encourages, and expects participants to be engaged and able to reach goals. The maieutic leader assists, the maieutic leader does not direct.
The book features an example of this type of leadership. You can find it in Chapter 18: "You Have the Resources". It came from an overnight outdoor activity created for a few dozen MBA students. One of their first challenges was to take a pile of canvas, poles, pegs and guy lines and put up a tent – their shelter for the night from the cold wind sweeping off the nearby river. Already twilight, the group grew increasingly frustrated. It kept turning to Gordon, the facilitator, for a solution. Gordon told them more than once, calmly, “You have the resources.” He could have easily stepped in and fixed it. Instead he gave the group the freedom to develop its own solution. It did. They really could say, “We did it ourselves.”

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Caption: My tent on a happier day.
Years later, I found myself in a similar situation: trying to erect an unfamiliar one-person tent in a blowing wind on the bank of the Rio Grande. After a long day of hauling canoes over and through a rocky river bed in Texas’ Big Bend National Park, I was ready to crawl into my tent, but first I had to put it up. The wind bedeviled me and the tent, lifting the floor and sending it flapping. Fed up, I considered finding the zipper and crawling inside, the hell with it. The guide, Burt, probably hearing a few of my choice words, came over and gave me a hint: “John, peg the floor before putting in the poles.” Burt could have said more, but didn’t. Well, the tip was good and I got to sleep in the tent. I suppose I could say, “I did this myself.”
While Gordon was adamant about offering no clues, Burt was less so, “Thank the Lord!” That suggests different levels of maieutic leadership, and that’s what’s needed when the leader is part of a group’s problem solving. Nathan C. Funk elaborates. “(D)ialogue is at the core of a mutual learning process and there is no assumption that the person speaking is necessarily wiser than those who are being engaged."
The notion that one’s co-workers may be as wise as the leader is hard for some leaders to accept. Yet that is what has to happen for the group’s wisdom ever to see daylight. While we may say a group is empowered, it has to know what that means; there are many levels of empowerment, some only a few degrees shy of a dis-empowered state.
Other turn offs for losing the maieutic mojo:
1. As implied above, hedge on empowerment, implicitly not trusting the group to achieve its goals.
2. As a supervisory member, tell the group, as often as necessary, why it’s ideas won’t work.
3. Take charge; you know nothing is going to happen unless YOU do it!
4. Withhold information, not because you want the group to find out what it can do on its own, but because, well, just because.
5. As leader, declare your “solution” before the group’s members have puzzled their way through the options.
6. Finally, tell the group, when at the peak of its frustration, to "work smarter, not harder".

*An abbreviation of a quote from a handout I use in my Coaching workshop. The source is Lao-Tzu’s The Book of the Way, circa 500BC.

Friday Fable. Aesop’s “THE TREES AND THE BRAMBLE BUSH”*

Posted by jlubans on January 18, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)


“The pomegranate and the apple tree were debating about their beauty. They had both gone on at great length arguing back and forth when a bramble bush in a nearby hedge heard them and said, 'Dear friends, let us put a stop to our quarrel.' 
The fable shows that when there is a dispute among sophisticated people, then riff-raff also try to act important.”
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Caption: Bramble bush blossoms.
Maybe the point (as expressed in the appended moral) is less about the ignoble bramble bush’s wanting to horn in, and more about the ramifications of stupid disputes among the “smart and beautiful people.” Aesop’s bramble bush – deemed un-beautiful because of its asymmetry – sees the ludicrousness of the discussion and joins in since the discussion puts the pomegranate and apple on the same plane as the unglamorous bramble bush.

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Caption: Pomegranate fruit.
Similarly, if our “betters” engage in un-informed and heated political debate, might not those of us in the peanut gallery feel free to get uncivil and hurl a few rotten apples and spoiled pomegranates? As a regular reader of the Chronicle of Higher Education I occasionally scan the reader comments. At times I am tempted to add a dismissive response, especially to the most virulent (always anonymous) and flatly one-sided. What stops me from verbal assault? If I can’t sign my name, I won’t push the send button. That’s not a remedy for stupid debates but it keeps me, beneficially, from joining in.

*Source: Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.


A “Noisy Orchestra”

Posted by jlubans on January 16, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Advert for Persimfans Revival, January 2009 in Moscow.
Speaking of democratic workplaces, there once was a conductor-less orchestra in the Soviet Union: “Persimfans”, short for Perviy Simfonichesky Ansambl, or First Symphony Ensemble (1922 – 1932).
The group interests me since I often blog about the conductor-less Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (now in its 40th year!). There are no less than a dozen Orphic mentions, for example, “Committing to Magic”. And, Chapter 6 in the book, “Leading from the Middle”, “The Invisible Leader: Lessons for Leaders from the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra” is among the book’s most frequently cited.
I dwell on Orpheus because they are a living, breathing example of a democratic organization, one that is self-managing and - while there are many leaders - “leader-less.”
Since I am eager to learn of other musicians running their own show, I was drawn to a brief article,* written in 1928, during Persimfans heyday. As you might expect, Moscow’s “Noisy Orchestra” was founded in 1922 with revolutionary fervor. That year’s prevailing sentiment was echoed in Persimfans’ one-day revival in 2009: "Just as the government didn't need a tsar, so the orchestra didn't need a director!"
While celebrating Persimfans’ considerable accomplishments (200 concerts) – all without a boss in sight – the authors offer up some insights and reservations about the inner workings prior to its demise in 1932 “as infighting among the musicians, pressure from the Bolshoi and Stalin's purges tore the group apart.”

From the beginning Persimfans was a revolt against the conductor. The main leader, Lev Moiseevich Tseitlin, saw conductors as superfluous entities claiming credit for work they did not do. Mr. Tseitlin (aka Zeitlin) was a first class violinist and the concertmaster of S. A. Koussevitzky’s symphony orchestra in Moscow.
As a result of the revolution, the stellar conductors had flown from Moscow and Tseitlin had at his disposal a world-class orchestra, one that had been led by the world’s best. These musicians already had an accomplished repertoire and some notions about musical interpretation.
Most Persimfans performances required 20 rehearsals – a huge investment of time and energy for reportedly very little money. In concert, the Persimfansians played in a circle, the better for the 100 players to see each other.
The orchestra was an immediate favorite with the Russian public, their comrades, but it had a few detractors. Among the latter, one termed the quality of the music “a mean arithmetical affair,” probably alluding to the now-missing inspiration of a truly great conductor.
Another critic, said that any good conductor could have led – without any rehearsal - this already expert orchestra. After all the musicians had played the repertoire countless times.
This last criticism echoes the effort and time it takes for self-managing teams to become effective. Yes, at the beginning of a team’s formation, a single leader can accomplish an assigend task more quickly than a team. However, a really good team keeps getting better over time, and eventually outperforms the solo leader.

Persimfans was not exactly self-managed: Tseitlin conducted all the rehearsals! And, in performance, all kept an eye on Tseitlin’s bow just like musicians do with a first violin or concertmaster. Perhaps that is why, for some critics, the orchestra’s quality never reached the highest level. While some will argue that Orpheus would be better if conducted, there is little dispute that Orpheus has its own soaring voice and achieves levels of beauty usually attributed only to the very best conductors.
In 1932 the music died for Persimfans. But conductors were soon back on Moscow podia for other orchestras. While Persimfans might have flown apart on its own, there was some recognition among the comradeship that while all are equal, some are more equal than others. If Mr. Stalin was “Father” to Russia, then a leader-less orchestra might be perceived – with dire consequences - as undermining the concept of a great leader for the masses. Mr. Tseitlin did survive the purges, dying a year before Stalin, in 1952.
Obviously, as demonstrated by Orpheus’ success, the “shtick” of being conductor-less is not enough to carry a musical group to greatness. Orpheus doesn’t hate conductors. They love music, are accomplished musicians, and want to have a say on what to play and in how to perform the selection. That is enough for inspired and talented musicians to make something beautiful happen. Or, put another way, you won’t go far if your motivation is to define what you are not. Instead you need to define who you are, what you want to achieve and how to you will get there. When that happens, a team or an orchestra, is well on its way to greatness.

*Sabaneev, Leonid and Pring, S. W., "A Conductorless Orchestra", The Musical Times 69, No. 1022 (1928): 307–309.

Friday Fable. Aesop’s “THE DOG AND THE LION”*

Posted by jlubans on January 11, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

“A dog was chasing a lion with all his might when the lion turned around and roared at him. The dog abandoned his pursuit, turned tail, and ran. A fox happened to see the dog and said, 'Why on earth would you chase after something when you cannot even stand the sound of its voice?' 
It is a foolish man who wants to rival his superiors. He is doomed to fail, and becomes a laughing-stock as well.”

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Caption: A photo from the book, Leading from the Middle, Chapter: 5: “Bridger and Me.”
My daughter Mara’s dog, Bridger, spent a year with us. She, Bridger, was probably a year old at the time. Since that year’s adventures – which are described in Chapter 5 - Bridger has matured and appears now to be a self-actualized dog, indeed an Apollonian canine.
Whenever she visits we go back to our daily routine. She reminds me when it is time for our early morning walk and when it is time for our afternoon walk. It’s not much of a reminder, just enough of a presence, a nudging look at me or the door. And we’re off.
In the early morning you’ll see us, rain or shine, on a nearby forest trail. In the afternoon, it’s a leisurely saunter around the block. One of the houses in the neighborhood has a couple small dogs and a cat or two. Usually I have Bridger off-leash because there is little foot traffic and because she is amazingly polite and well behaved, of course.
Not long ago, as we strolled past the house with the several pets, a high-strung barking erupted. Within seconds a tiny dog shot out of the driveway scrambling after Bridger. Bridger was un-impressed. Here was this 3 or 4-pounder, barking and snarling at a 50-pound black lab. “Bring it on” the little guy was shouting, “Bring it on!” Bridger, imperturbable, ambled on. Then – Napoleonically thinking she was in retreat - he snapped at Bridger. Bridger spun around, opening her jaws about a foot wide, showing all of her teeth back to the molars. And, her hackles stood up three inches, adding another 20 pounds to her presence. The little dog, stunned, eyes bulging, ceased and desisted back into the safety of his yard. I like to think Bridger was a little amused.
The epimythium for my story: if you must bark, then bark at dogs your own size or smaller. And, in the workplace, if you insist on making asinine comments don’t be surprised when a superior barks back, and then some.

*Source: Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.

Of Spiders and Starfish.

Posted by jlubans on January 09, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

The book, “The Starfish and the Spider: the Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations”* offers up numerous examples of how “leaderless” organizations (starfish) are more able to introduce new ideas and to adapt to setbacks than is the hierarchy (the spider). Starfish have the power to regenerate lost limbs; cut off one and another grows in its place. Kill bin Laden, al-Qaeda continues to pop up, unwelcome and unexpected. The message is that stopping a starfish organization is more complicated than only sidelining the leader.
The authors point to the Internet and many of its Web 2.0 services, like Wikipedia, Craig’s List and Napster, as successful applications of the starfish concept. Historically, and perhaps more credibly, the authors spot starfish elements in Alcoholics Anonymous and in the social movements to abolish slavery and to get the vote for American women. And, the book shows that the post-Columbian Spanish invaders were able to conquer the Aztec and Inca empires but failed to dispossess the Apache Indians of their the lands. The former were “spider” organizations while the latter was a starfish, mobile and “leaderless”, i.e. with no one all-powerful leader to kill.

While stressing positive examples, the book includes the use of the starfish model for negative or unethical purposes. For example, the authors appear ambivalent about Napster, a vehicle that facilitated millions of digital files for sharing without regard for copyright or royalty payments. Brofman and Beckstrom, with a certain amount of glee, explain that the old centralized (and unfair) distribution control of the recording and movie industries is impotent to stop file sharing, P2P, groups like Napster.** You can crush one or more of Napster-like businesses but you cannot kill the concept: Information Is Free. Too many people believe their entertainment should be free – regardless of production and distribution costs - and enough have the knowledge to pirate media. (I have a semi-serious proposal to amend the inherent rights in the USA’s Declaration of Independence: “life, liberty, entertainment, and the pursuit of happiness!”)

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Jaron Lanier is an outspoken apostate of the Information Is Free movement. In a recent interview he compares pirating media with other unethical aspects of the Internet like bullying and the anonymity that facilitate violent rhetoric against anyone different. Like the televised shouting-heads, the result is incoherent rage. Lanier worries the cyber-bullying can become “social lasers of cruelty” not only against an unpopular kid but also as a murderous weapon in global political movements – so much for the much-vaunted “wisdom of the crowd”.
Mr. Lanier sees a direct connection between stealing media and the resulting unemployment for media producers and workers. It is one of our society’s values that taking someone’s property and using it without recognition or payment is wrong. Yet the practice goes on with a wink and a sly nod; sort of like jeering at prohibition, but under the Volstead Act you had to pay your bootlegger or suffer the consequences. Or, more au courant, if you do drugs, you do not forget to pay your dealer.
Google suggests the mindset that Mr. Lanier rails against. Is there not a supreme arrogance in Google’s digitization of millions of books without permission from copyright owners like me? Or how about appropriating the words and phrases of thousands of translators – again without compensation - and shoving them into Google Translate? Voila, Google’s the go-to place for translation, further reducing revenue for translators.
My point is that spider or starfish, ethics matter. If we believe it is wrong to harm others economically then we cannot be supportive of organizations that violate that basic value. I will be discussing questions about wisdom in crowds and starfish and spider organizations in my class on the Democratic Workplace in February and March in Riga, Latvia. I look forward to the discussion!

*Ori Brafman; Rod A Beckstrom. “The starfish and the spider: the unstoppable power of leaderless organizations.”
New York: Portfolio; London: Turnaround [distributor], 2007.

**The authors, after celebrating Napster’s unconventional ways, introduce an ironic touch in the warning on their copyright page:
“The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s (sic) rights is appreciated!” (Emphasis added.)

Friday Fable: Aesop’s “THE BULL AND THE MOUSE”*

Posted by jlubans on January 04, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

“A bull was bitten by a mouse. Smarting from the sting, the bull began to chase the mouse but the mouse was too quick for him and managed to hide in the depths of his mouse hole. The bull came to a halt and dug his horns into the walls until finally he sank down in exhaustion and went to sleep right there in front of the hole. The mouse peeped out from inside his hole, crept up on the bull, bit him again, and ran back inside his hole. The bull leaped to his feet but he had no idea what to do. 'It's not always the big one who has the power,' said the mouse, 'in some cases being humble and small is a strength!'”
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Tom & Jerry, Road Runner & Coyote, David & Goliath, Figaro & the Count – the list goes on - suggest there’s no end of appeal for stories about the lowly taking it to the mighty.
And so it can be in the workplace. Long after Aesop crafted his fables, Chester Barnard, proposed his astonishing (for 1938) bottom-up theory-that “management has only as much authority or power as subordinates are wiling to accept and to the extent they consent to comply with directives”. Indeed, the put-upon employee can withhold his best ideas or her best effort. If pushed hard enough employees can sabotage the boss.
The wise leader works with rather than over her followers. That’s easily said, not so easily done. I have been part of large change efforts and while we, the executives, were well intentioned, we failed to include staff in our decision-making. This failure was far more than a political one. More importantly, it was a failure to use available resources. Good staff can have very good ideas.
There are numerous ways to include staff long before a decision is made. Genuine inclusion, however, does have its risks. The staff’s best idea may not be your idea. Indeed, you may believe that what the staff proposes is wrong. What do you do? Impose your will or go with the wisdom of the group? Many bosses avoid that dilemma by pretending to include staff. This sleight-of-hand is quickly spotted by change opponents and turmoil results. You may have to abandon or compromise your change efforts – at considerable expense and vast inefficiency.
I recommend genuinely including staff long before decisions are made. The results can be highly positive for leaders, the organization, and the staff.

*Source: Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.

Managing in the Middle

Posted by jlubans on January 03, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

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Managing in the Middle, edited by Robert Farrell and Kenneth Schlesinger, is out! The book* “brings together the collective wisdom of some of today's most experienced and insightful public and academic library middle managers. The book is organized as a practical handbook -- a vade mecum, of sorts -- that can be consulted when issues arise. It can also be read sequentially by professionals and students looking for a concise but thorough overview of the skills managers need and challenges they face over the course of a middle management career.”
One of the chapters is “Taking Risks and Letting Go, Creating and Coaching Teams: An Interview with John Lubans.”
I encourage you to read this collection of practitioner ideas and front-line thinking.

*Managing in the Middle,edited by Robert Farrell and Kenneth Schlesinger. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2013.

Friday Fable. Lubans' The Beech Tree in Winter*

Posted by jlubans on January 02, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

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Now listen well and I will tell you why the Beech keeps its leaves in winter. Long ago all the trees flourished and grew many feet into the sky, as high as they could go. Then a drought came and the trees began to suffer. Their leader, the Great Oak, called a council of trees to consider what to do. This was a time when trees could walk and talk. Many in the assembly thought it best to leave for elsewhere; certainly, over the mountains there must be rain and rich dirt! A few blamed the Great Oak for the hardship – it was a matter of poor leadership, indeed failed leadership! some harrumphed. Yes, trees back then could do that just like people.
Many trees joined in the criticism, and advised - with much rustling and creaking of branches - crossing the mountains. The Oak heard, but said he was staying. It was best, in his eyes, to stand silently and wait in wisdom: use less food from the earth and produce less fruit, and wait for the rains. All, including their animal friends, will have to do with less.
The Beech Tree listened and considered. She remembered Grandmother Beech’s stories about the joy of bountiful days and the misery of lean times. “There will be times of plenty, there will be times of less. Some years there will be little growth, other years will be full of new leaves and heavy hanging fruit. Never is each year the same.” She taught that only patience and sacrifice will get a tree through a bad year on into a good one.
Then, the Beech Tree spoke up and said she would stay by the side of Great Oak.
Hearing Beech Tree’s wisdom, many trees reconsidered and stayed. Some trees did pick up their roots and move away, seeking a gentler climate. They found little improvement – the drought was throughout the land on both sides of the mountain range. Their energy spent on crossing the mountains, many died.
Those that stayed with the Great Oak suffered but survived.
Eventually, the rains came and the forest turned green once again. At the next council, the Great Oak told all the trees that the Beech Tree would keep its autumn leaves through the winter. It was to remind everyone of the importance of loyalty, faith, and patience – and of Beech’s independence. Her leaves would shine brightly in bands of gold amidst winter’s grey. “Those un-fallen leaves will remind us of the warm rain and sun, the gentle winds, and our soon-to-return animal friends, small and large and winged.”
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*An original, aboriginal-style story. It follows my story about Kookaburra and Crow from two years ago. Speaking of Down Under, there’s a copy of Leading from the Middle in Auckland, New Zealand.

Copyright john lubans 2013