I want to share a great folk tale from Thailand with implications on leadership. Thai parents tell their children this story to teach them the right way to lead.
Once upon a time a ferocious wind named Saladon met a gentle breeze named Pattaya. The two started talking and the blustery loudmouth, Saladon, declared he could do anything he wanted as he was such a strong wind. Everyone gets out of his way and does what he wants. Saladon went on to say he takes care of business with his mighty strength and sheer force of willpower.
Pattaya replied in wonderment, I am not a strong wind like you, because I choose to refreshing and gentle. I don’t like to use all of my strength. To which, Saladon retorted, why would you do that? Why would you choose to be weak?
Pattaya calmly responded, I get what I want.
However, Saladon wasn’t satisfied, he proclaimed, he could get anything and do anything he wanted, and urged his new friend to be more assertive.
Pattaya thought for a moment not convinced that Saladon’s approach was ideal. Then Pattaya got an idea. The smoothed ocean breeze came up with a challenge for Saladon.
He asked, you can do anything, right?
Saladon replied, of course.
Anything? Because I am thinking of one thing that might be difficult for you.
Yes, Anything, Saladon angrily said as his voice began to rise.
Pattaya kept pouring gas on the fire and stirred up Saladon. Well, I have this one thing that might challenge your claims.
Saladon said, whatever it is, I can do it.
Ummm, I am not sure I want to tell you, because I don’t want you to say no if you can’t do it, Pattaya said.
Now, a fuming Saladon insisted he could do it no matter what it was.
Pattaya then gave the challenge. He pointed out the monkeys that love to climb the trees in the jungle along the beaches. He challenged Saladon to make the monkeys get out of the trees. Saladon confidently took the challenge.
He thought this was easy as he was all worked up and ready to go. He gathered all of his force and began to whirl a wind so strong the trees began to blow. Leaves blew off the trees and the scared monkeys grabbed onto the trees with all their might. They held on not knowing what else to do. Saladon was just getting started when he began blowing with as much fury as he could. The trees began to bend sideways, but the monkeys kept holding on as tight as they were afraid to let go and fall to the ground.
Saladon blew his mighty wind as long as he could, but after about thirty minutes of frantic wind gusts, the monkeys still clung to the trees.
Pattaya cracked a sly smile across his face. Saladon not wanting to admit his shortcoming said if I can’t do that, there is no way a small wind like you could get them out of the trees. With a small smile still across his face and now a twinkle in his eye, Pattaya said it’s my turn.
When the warm, soft breeze blew across the faces of the monkeys, they began to feel more comfortable and relaxed. Pattaya kept blowing gently and bringing the afternoon breeze in from the shore. The monkeys thought they were getting so relaxed, so they decided to climb down and curl up for a nap.
Pattaya won the challenge and showed that he could get as much done and more with his style of wind. Saladon stormed off in a huff.
And when the parents tell their children the story, they explain that good leaders get more done by being gentle and compassionate.