The story of the king and his dogs

Story time. My favourite time, by the way. Love a good yarn, especially when there is a leadership message in there. 

Now, you have a job to do, though. 

As I tell you this story, I want you to think about who you are in it. There are three characters, the King, the Minister, and the Dogs (yes, it is ok to be the dogs… not all the time, but for this story anyway). And you might have heard it before but let me put the leadership spin on it. And add a psychological safety spin. 

Once upon a time, there was this king that had 10 wild dogs… He used them (the dogs) to torture and eat all his ministers who made mistakes. 

On this day, one of the ministers gave an opinion which was wrong, and which the king disliked, and which appeared to be a mistake. So, the king ordered that the minister be thrown to the dogs. 

Following the decree of punishment, the minister said, “I served you 10 years, and you do this?” 

And then as their last wish, the minister begged, “Please give me 10 days before you throw me in with the wild dogs!” 

The king agreed… 

In those 10 days the minister went to the guard that was guarding the dogs and told him he wants to serve the dogs for the next 10 days. The guard was baffled. 

And agreed to the minister’s request. 

The minister started feeding the dogs, cleaning for them, washing them, providing all sorts of comfort for them.  

When the 10 days were up, the king ordered that the minister be thrown to the dogs for his punishment. 

But when he was thrown in, everyone was amazed at what they saw. They saw the dogs licking the feet of the minister!  

The king baffled at what he saw…. so, he asked, “What happened to the dogs?” 

The minister then said, “I served the dogs for 10 days and they didn’t forget my service… yet I served you for 10 years and you forgot all at the first mistake!” 

The king realized his mistake and ordered the minister to go free. 

I know right, it’s a great story, and quite a deep one, if you get into it. 

So, who are you in that story? And here is my leadership reflection on each of the parties, including where they started, and maybe where they ended, as a point of reference. You might be at one end or the other, or you might be somewhere in the middle… 

1. The King 

The king was not a great leader at the start of this story. The king’s leadership team lived in fear. They could not offer an opinion, let alone make a mistake, or they would be sacked or even worst – ostracised from the team. The king was intolerant, lacked empathy, and was unable to listen to the ideas of others. The king hadn’t been to one of the TGG Leadership Training programs, and hadn’t learnt the skills of creating conscious control, and keeping emotions in check, even when team members might not have a great idea that they want to share. There was no emotional intelligence on display from the king, who over reacted. 

The king then transformed. Through a lived leadership experience. The king’s belief systems and values were challenged (and changed). They were challenged by being made to have an emotional experience, and one that meant the king couldn’t feel anything but remorse for the minister and a level of guilt or shame for his own behaviour.  

Let’s hope that behaviour change was permanent, and the rest of the ministers don’t have to live in fear anymore! 

At the end of this story, the king was willing to be challenged. And to change his mind. Challenger Safety. 

2. The Minister 

The minister was a solid team contributor. Always offering suggestions. Maybe even an over-contributor at times. Maybe making decisions without all the right information. And due to that, the minister’s information maybe could not be trusted. And the king, having coached the minister in the past to make sure they provide the right amount of detail, had made another mistake. Or offered a suggestion that was not grounded in a business case or with good data. In some ways, the king had reached his limit (certainly not a justification for the behaviour), and due to a lack of emotional control, the minister was sent to the dogs.  

The minister then transformed. The minister decided to use his skills to ‘manage-upwards’. The minister was thinking quickly and talking slowly. The minister knew that if he could help the king to understand what it is like to be in the minister’s shoes, the king might just change his behaviour. And it worked. The king stepped into empathy.  

But the most important part of this story is that the minister had a new team to work with. Once the minister had joined his new team, he worked hard to build relationships with the other team members (the wild dogs). The minister turned up in service (in the right way, with the right intent), and was able to connect with the other team members in a way that meant they became a high performing team and were able to work well together.  

The minister to was able to apply a new strategy, to learn from his mistake, and contribute to a better outcome for everyone. 

Learner Safety and Contributor Safety. 

3. The Wild Dogs 

The wild dogs (aka new team members) were not very inclusive. They were known as the team that no-one wanted to work with. They were aggressive, abusive, and abrupt. They hurt each other at times, and they certainly didn’t include new team members very well. They were angry. And it felt like you had been ripped apart each time you had to deal with them. They had the reputation of being a mean and nasty team, who were hard to work with, and had to deal with.  

That wild dogs team then transformed. They went from being an angry team, to being a team that welcomed a new team member. They were willing to change their belief systems and values and be accepting. They were welcoming of new ideas, and they became willing to help each other. And to make sure that the new team member felt accepted and valued. After only 10 days, the new team was a high performing team. A team that worked together towards the same goals and objectives. 

This new team became friendly and inclusive, and they all worked together and got along a lot better. 

Inclusion Safety. 

Who are you in this story? And why. And maybe you were at one point, and now you are at another point in your journey. 

Would love to hear your comments on this.  

And could you please do me a favour, and share this with leaders everywhere? This is a great story that leaders understand and can really lean into. 

And of course, 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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