Friday Fable. Aesop’s “The Lion and the Three Bulls”*

Posted by jlubans on October 02, 2015

Caption: Illustration by Milo Winter (1886-1956) from his Aesop for Children, 1919.

“THREE BULLS for a long time pastured together. A Lion lay in ambush in the hope of making them his prey, but was afraid to attack them while they kept together. Having at last by guileful speeches succeeded in separating them, he attacked them without fear as they fed alone, and feasted on them one by one at his own leisure.”
“Union is strength.”

One translation of this fable has the bulls quarreling amongst themselves, breaking apart, and falling prey to Mr. Lion. So, internal conflict – whatever the source can lead to disaster.
At work, I’ve been involved in my share of internecine strife – it’s difficult to resist once you lose sight of the “big picture” and become part of a faction. I remember departments cold shouldering each other and panning ideas for improvement if made by the opposition, however worthy the ideas. We squandered work time and morale on disparaging each other. We gained little through the strife, but our customers came out worse. Internal jealousies that frustrate implementing good ideas and leave foolish policies in place only result in lower levels of customer service.
If you are a new leader/follower in an established and traditional organization (like the ones I’ve worked in) do you try to better understand someone’s alternative view? That kind of openness could be like the sunshine and dispel the miasma of distrust, of disrespect. Or do you aggravate the gloom with the grey clouds of misunderstanding? Do you permit “guileful speeches” to go unchallenged? Do you get sucked into the bad-mouthing?
The only way out of a backstabbing culture is for the organization – initiated by a leader/follower - to practice mutual respect and trustworthiness.

*Source: FABLES By Aesop Translated by George Fyler Townsend (probably from this edition): “Three hundred and fifty Aesop’s fables”. Chicago, Belford, Clarke & Co., 1886. Available at the Gutenberg Project.

Copyright © John Lubans 2015

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