Saturday, June 13, 2009
Leadership and Resourcefulness
A woman and a man are involved in a car accident on a snowy, cold Monday morning. It is a bad one. Both their cars are totally demolished, but amazingly neither of them hurt. After they crawl out of their cars, the man starts yelling at the woman driver. Women are stupid, he says, and they should never be allowed to drive. The woman keeps her cool. She says, “All right, all right. You’re a man and I’m a woman, that’s the fact and neither of us can help it. But look at it this way. Our cars are finished, there is nothing left, but we’re unhurt. This
be a sign from God that we should be friends and live in peace for the rest of our days.”
The man takes a good look at the woman again. She is beautiful. He is flattered, but he still cannot forgive the woman. He says, “Oh yes. I agree completely. This must be a sign from God! But you’re still at fault…. Women should not be allowed to drive.”
The woman continues, “And look at this, here’s another miracle. My car is completely demolished, but this bottle of wine didn’t break. Surely God wants us to drink this wine and celebrate our good fortune.” She hands the bottle to the man. The man nods his head in agreement, opens it and drinks half the bottle and then hands it back to the woman.
The woman takes the bottle, puts the cap back on and hands it back to the man. The man asks, “Aren’t you having any?”
The woman replies, “No, I think I’ll just wait for the police.”
That’s resourcefulness! A bit wicked, yes, but resourcefulness at its best!
I love the story!
A good leader needs to be resourceful.
Folklore from across the world is full of stories of resourcefulness. The Arabian Nights has numerous stories of resourcefulness, as do Hitopadesha and Kathasarit Sagara. The whole of Shuka Saptati, that ancient collection of seventy mildly erotic tales, consists of tales of resourcefulness. A tale of resourcefulness that l like very much is from the Panchatantra: the story of the blue jackal, which I am sure most of us have heard as children.
His name was Chandarava [Fierce Voice] and one day when he couldn’t find anything to eat in the jungle, he wandered into the town. The moment he reached the town, a pack of dogs began chasing him around, barking furiously. The jackal felt any moment they would tear him to pieces. He ran blindly, fearing his life. The first door he found open was that of dyer. He fled into the dyer’s. The dyer had a large vat filled with blue dye, ready for use. In his confusion, Chandarava fell into the vat. The dogs stood around him furiously barking, while he pressed himself into the vat as low as possible to escape their rage.
A moment later the jackal surfaced from the vat, unable to hold his breath any more. He shook his head to clear his eyes and hair of water.
Suddenly there was total silence all around. The dogs had stopped barking. The next moment they turned around and fled. For, what came out of the vat was not what went into it. The dogs had seen the jackal fall into the vat. What emerged was a creature none of them had ever seen. All blue, from the tip of his nose to his tail. They had never seen an animal like that.
Still hungry, the terrified jackal walked back into the forest. He had no idea what had made the dogs suddenly leave him and flee. Something had apparently scared him.
And then all on a sudden he realized the truth. It was he who had scared the dogs. For, in the jungle too, every animal that saw him turned around and fled. Foxes, hyenas, monkeys, deer. leopards, even tigers and lions. He approached a pack of his own people – jackals. And they bolted as one at his sight.
He stood still and took a good look at himself.
He was not the same jackal any more. He was all blue. A blue jackal! He had never seen a blue jackal. No one had ever seen a blue jackal. But he was one now.
The animals that had turned around and fled were now standing around and watching him from a safe distance. He looked into their eyes. What he saw there was mortal fear. And that gave him the idea.
He lifted his head majestically and addressed the animals. “Kukudruma – that’s my name, “he said. “And I am your king. Appointed by Brahma himself. He realized you needed a new king. And he has ordered that you shall all obey me. And the lion and the tiger shall work as my chief ministers. And those among you who are capable, as my other ministers. Like the panther and the wolf and so on.”
In great relief, the jungle accepted him as their new king. He made all the ferocious animals of the jungle his ministers and with their help, drove all the jackals away from the jungle. He said this was the order of Brahma – Brahma hated jackals. They were evil creatures. He would even have wiped out the memory of jackals from the minds of the animals, if that was possible.
Thus with quick thinking and resourcefulness the jackal became the unquestioned king of the jungle. The other animals hunted for him and he lived exactly as a mighty lord of the jungle should live. Served by lions, tigers, panthers, leopards and wolves and other animals.
The story does not end happily, as all of us who know the ancient fable know. But that does not matter to us. What matters is that with his resourcefulness, he was able to completely turn a bad situation around in his favour. What could have been a great tragedy and a reason from isolation and perhaps a lonely death, became a source of power for him.
That’s what resourcefulness can do for you.
Krishna, the greatest leader in the long history of India, displays brilliant resourcefulness throughout his life. I shall narrate here just one story in which he gives us a superb demonstration of his resourcefulness. The story is part of the Krishna legend and is well known.
The fierce Kalayavana lays siege to Mathura with a huge army. Krishna knows he cannot afford to lose his army fighting him. The Yadavas are expecting any time Jarasandha, their mortal enemy and the slain Kamsa’s father-in-law, at the borders of Mathura and they need all their resources to battle him.
After making arrangements for the safety of the fort and the people of Mathura, one day Krishna comes out alone to answer the challenge of the Yavana. Seeing him coming unarmed, Kalayavana too gives up his weapons, deciding to fight Krishna on equal terms. Dropping his weapons, the Yavana runs towards Krishna with a fierce battle cry. Krishna waits until he comes near and then turns around and bolts, surprising the Yavana and all his army. Krishna is known as a fearless warrior and nobody expected him to turn around and flee from an attacking enemy.
Kalayavana follows him. It appears to the Yavana that Krishna is tired and could be caught any instant. But as the warrior comes near, Krishna suddenly picks up speed and runs. Again and again the same thing happens. All along Kalayavana showers insults at the fleeing Krishna. Eventually both Krishna and the Yavana are from Mathura and the army.
Krishna has a definite plan. He is taking Kalayavana to a mountain cave where the ancient royal sage Muchukunda who once fought for the gods is now sleeping. Eventually they reach the mountain. Krishna enters the dark cave and the Yavana follows. As his eyes get used to the darkness of the cave, the Yavana sees a sleeping human form some distance from him. Taking it for Krishna collapsed on the floor from exhaustion, Kala goes to him and gives him a mighty kick. Muchukunda wakes up and opens his eyes that had been shut for ages. As his enraged eyes fall on him, the Yavana’s body bursts into flames and Kalayavana is turned into ashes, exactly as Krishna had known would happen, as per a boon the royal sage had received from Indra.
According to the Bhagavata, Krishna had to get Kalayavana killed by someone else since he could not have been killed by any Yadava because of a boon he had received from Shiva.
Resourcefulness is not to be confused with cunning. Resourcefulness is planning. It is foresight. It is thinking creatively. It is thinking on the spur of the moment. Thinking on your toes.
It is refusing to allow your limitations to overpower you.
My daughter recently brought a VCD when she came home for vacation and insisted that I must see it with her. She had seen it and now wanted to watch it again with me. The movie was 300, a movie about human excellence, courage, nobility and a lot of other things that make life the wonderful thing it is. For those who are not familiar with the movie, it is a recent retelling of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae which depicts King Leonidas and his army of three hundred Spartans fighting to death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army. Described as movie making at a cutting edge, it is an absolutely brilliant movie if you are willing to overlook the blatantly dark biases in the portrayal of Xerxes and his army and Asians in general.
We see Leonidas’ brilliant resourcefulness throughout the movie, including in bringing the seemingly endless Persian army [supposed to be of one million soldiers] to the narrow pass between the rocks and the sea at Hot Gates where the advantages are all with the Spartans and the disadvantages all with the Persians.
In an early scene in the movie we see how Leonidas goes to war against the law that said he shouldn’t because the oracles have spoken against it. When people object to the Spartan army going, quoting the law, this is what he says: “Nor shall it… these are three hundred men of my personal bodyguard. Our army will stay in Sparta.” He does not break the Spartan law that is sacred to his people, and yet he goes to war, taking the best of Spartan army with him – three hundred selected warriors who have chosen death over life as Persian slaves. Another example for a leader’s resourcefulness.
There was a 10-year-old boy who decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident.
The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn't understand why, after three months of training the master had taught him only one move.
"Sensei," the boy finally said, "Shouldn't I be learning more moves?"
"This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you'll ever need to know," the sensei replied.
Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training.
Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals.
This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened.
"No," the sensei insisted, "Let him continue."
Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard. Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament. He was the champion.
On the way home, the boy summoned the courage to ask what was on his mind.
"Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?"
"You won for two reasons," the sensei answered. "First, you've almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grasp your left arm."
The boy's biggest weakness had become his biggest strength through his master’s resourcefulness.
Resourcefulness has been defined as “the ability to cope with new challenges and situations promptly and skilfully as they arise. It is the ability to use problem solving methods to creatively channel available resources to meet situations effectively.”
Going by that definition, in a lighter vein, here is one more story of resourcefulness – this one from the Shuka Saptati, the ancient erotic classic from Sanskrit literature we mentioned earlier.
The man had long been suspecting that his wife was having an affair with another man in his own house. One night he lay awake pretending to be sleeping, hoping the catch her paramour. As he had hoped, sometime after he began breathing evenly as in sleep, he heard a sound in the room – someone was approaching quietly through the darkness. The paramour! The next instant the man caught his wife’s secret lover by his hair. Now he wanted to see his face.
By then his wife too was awake – of course, she hadn’t been sleeping, but had only been pretending like him, waiting for her lover. “What’s it?” she asked, alarm in her voice.
“Someone’s here,” he said. “I am holding him by his hair. Go get me some light.”
His wife was quick. “I am afraid to move in the dark. Let me hold him and you go and get the light.” The man agreed and got up, to go to the kitchen to get some light. The moment he left, she released her lover and sent him away, and instead brought their woolly dog in. When the man came back with light, what he saw was his wife holding their dog by its woolly hair.
“Don’t worry,” the woman consoled her husband as she released the dog. “He must have been hungry and come hoping for something to eat. Come darling, get back into bed while I give him something.”
This too is resourcefulness!