The old man and his grandson, is a leadership story

Have you heard of Cinderella? Have you heard of Rapunzel? Have you heard of Snow White?  

Me too, though have you head of The Brothers Grimm? Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the two brothers that wrote the fairy tales (in the early 1800’s) that we still get enjoyment from today. 

Their original works were quite dark, and even violent. And some of those fairy tales have been rewritten (to soften them up a little). 

Every one of their fairy tales has a great message, and messages that are relatable and relevant to us all. In a fairy tale kind of way.  

Just like the tale of “The Old man and his grandson.” As you read this tale, think about who you are in the story, and more specifically, how important your behaviour is. And what it is saying about you… 

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There was once a very old man, whose eyes had become dim, his ears dull of hearing, his knees trembled, and when he sat at the table, he could hardly hold the spoon, and spilt the broth upon the tablecloth or let it run out of his mouth. His son and his son’s wife were disgusted at this, so the old grandfather at last had to sit in the corner behind the stove, and they gave him his food in an earthenware bowl, and not even enough of it. And he used to look towards the table with his eyes full of tears.  

Once, too, his trembling hands could not hold the bowl, and it fell to the ground and broke. The young wife scolded him, but he said nothing and only sighed. Then they brought him a wooden bowl for a few half-pence, out of which he had to eat. 

They were once sitting thus when the little grandson of four years old began to gather together some bits of wood upon the ground. ’What are you doing there?’ asked the father. ’I am making a little trough,’ answered the child, ’for father and mother to eat out of behind the stove when I am big.’ 

The man and his wife looked at each other for a while, and presently began to cry. Then they took the old grandfather to the table, and henceforth always let him eat with them, and likewise said nothing if he did spill a little of anything. 

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This is the story that I use a lot in my sessions, and it never ceases to get the desired reaction. Of making people thing about their behaviour and how it impacts others. 

1. Our actions can hurt others 

And it can hurt others either intentionally or unintentionally.  

A big part of our leadership training programs is about intention. I ask leaders what their intentions are? Are their intentions to help or hurt, to harm or heal? The majority off leaders have the right intent. 

In the moment, when the pressure is on, or during a crisis event, things can change. And intent can change quickly. And your team might not be your priority in the moment. 

It is in those moments that you could metaphorically ‘put someone behind the stove.’ Out of mind, out of site! Or you could exclude them. Or put them in your out group.  

Like the son and his wife did. 

The message is to be aware of your intent before you make people decisions or have courageous conversations.  

2. Our actions can influence others 

And it can influence others either intentionally or unintentionally.  

Leading by example is not an important element of leadership, it is the only element of leadership. Your teams don’t listen to you as much as they watch you. Your teams are continuously observing your behaviour for the signs and signals of how to behave. 

They are looking for the minimum line of what is acceptable. And the maximum line of what is expected. So that they can stay within those lines and avoid falling below what is accepted. Whilst aiming to perform about what is expected (exceeding expectations). 

And you don’t have to say anything to influence behaviour at times. You just have to act.  

Like the four-year-old grandson did. 

The message is to always behave in a way that is in alignment with your values. That is legal, moral, and ethical. And that has high integrity.  

3. Our actions can serve others 

And it can serve others to see them succeed.  

There are times when you might need to swallow your pride. Change your mind, change your decision. And that is ok.  

It is sometimes better to change your decision than to continue to argue or fight for an outcome that is not possible. Changing your decision is a sing of courage, not a lack of it. Though most leaders don’t see it that way. They see it as a sign of weakness or a lack of conviction. Though the opposite is the case. 

Being in service, even if it means implementing a change. Or a changed decision, is important. You can be in service. 

Like the son and his wife were. 

The message is to be aware of what your teams are experiencing, and what you might need to change to upgrade their experience.  

In summary, your behaviour matters. It can impact others; way more than you know.  

And could you please do me a favour, and share this with leaders everywhere? This is an important topic for leaders. 

Please click the image below if you’d like to chat about what leadership means to you.

If you would like to learn more about Anton or The Guinea Group, please click hereto book into Anton’s calendar, to:

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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