King Bidgood's in the Bath Tub (AGAIN) and Won't Get Out

Posted by jlubans on August 02, 2011

20110803-king-bidgoods.jpgA New York friend and I were having lunch in late July somewhere on the East Side. The debt crisis came up – it was still unresolved at the time. She thought my book on Leading from the Middle was highly relevant to what was happening, even encouraging me to write an op-ed for a newspaper.
We both agreed that leadership was largely absent among the politicians. It was a time for assertive leadership by effective followers, from those in the middle. I can surmise many reasons for the failed leadership not the least of which would be the stretched allegiances among competing factions. Oh, to do away with lobby money, with political action group money, etc.
Well, thinking about that op-ed, summoned up in my mind a children’s book – one already mentioned in this blog:
King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood with pictures by Don Wood.
It’s a delightful, sumptuously illustrated book . The king is in the tub and he won’t get out. Think of the king as our government. Lodged and immovable.
Oh, who knows what to do? is the question buzzing among the royals and courtiers. “I do” says the Knight. “Come in” says the King. “Today we battle in the tub.” No luck!
“Oh, who knows what to do?” The Queen knows. Time for lunch says she. Come in says the king “with a yum, yum, yum.” Today we lunch in the tub! In a scene reminiscent of Tom Jones’ erotic picnic albeit with an unwilling lady, the Queen leaves in a wet huff!
A Duke is next. Time to fish, let’s go, your Majesty! We fish in the tub, says the king. Next, the courtiers take a turn: It’s time for a masque’d ball. Dance in the tub! The nude King gets down.
What can be done? wails the court. I know, says the page and pulls the drain plug. Glub, glub – and the bare bottomed King skips off.
Where’s a page when we need him or her the most – to pull the plug on the bloated debt crisis. If King Bidgood’s was cannily looking for someone to solve his “problem”, he finds him, the least powerful of those present. The page is an effective follower. We ask, who empowered the page? The page did. You see, after all have failed, rank matters less. When things are desperate enough, we will ask others for help and we will accept unusual, and often, very simple actions. Effective followers all have courage, the courage to stand forth and take action. Effective followers often have the most to lose for taking action. The page was incredibly brave; he could have lost his head.
I hope King Bidgood is having frequent, private chats with that page.
Addendum: I wanted to show you what my Latvian students thought of the King Bidgood book. On the third day of class, I asked* the class to draw posters to represent their “takeaway”; that most important thing they got out of reading selected children’s books in class. 20110817-readingkingbid.jpeg Here is the small group reading King Bidgood. And, this is their poster for reporting out to the class. 20110817-posterkingbid.jpeg They linked the page and his actions to the concept of the effective follower, deeming the heroic page the “Unofficial Boss”! And they saw the courtiers as pretty much YES people, not the most effective followers. What pleasantly surprised me was the students’ opinion that King Bidgood had ulterior motives in his staying in the tub: he was looking for a capable problem-solving follower. He's “The Tricky Boss.”

*My Instructions for using children’s books in management class about the concept of followership:

1. Read out loud to your group (as in story time!) one book.

2. Discuss:
Who are followers in this book? What kinds of following do you see?

What is the learning, the take away, the “So what?” the “Now what?” from this book?

3. Create: a page of your key finding – use crayons and flip chart paper.

4. Present your group drawing to all.

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