You should…

Following yesterday’s post about Abraham Lincoln’s leadership philosophy it seems appropriate to tell a story about what it means to live the opposite of that.

Once upon a time a man and his son were walking their donkey to market. On the way they passed through several villages.

At the first village the people laughed at them. “You are so stupid”, they said. “One of you should ride the donkey.” That seemed like a good idea, so the son got on the donkey.

Then they came to the second village. “How terrible”, the villagers said, “forcing an old man to walk while the young man takes it easy. The old man should ride.” So the father and son swapped places.

At the next village they found themselves the object of ridicule again. “Idiots!” the people said. “You should both ride the donkey!” So they both got on the donkey.

But at the next village the people threw stones. “You should be ashamed of yourselves! Poor donkey!” they cried. “You should be carrying the donkey, not the other way around.”

You can probably see how this story is going to turn out. At the next village the people told them they should stop carrying the donkey and simply walk to market. So they did.

Different people will always tell you different ‘shoulds’. And you will never be able to make them all happy.

Leadership (as Abraham Lincoln told us) is about knowing what your priorities are, and why they matter to you.

Knowing them and sticking to them will save you wasted time and energy in discussions, and will get you to market faster, the way you want, without a sore back.

Letting go of shoulds is a first step.

Chapter 2 of inner leadership teaches you to spot and avoid the shoulds and other unconscious mis-blinks and misinterpretations that you and the people around you might make about a situation.

Chapters 3 and 4 help you identify and choose what you truly want from the situation (rather than what you think you should).

Chapter 5 gets you clear on why this matters to you (by identifying your purpose and values).

Chapter 6 shows you how to convert your chosen opportunity into a vision that will inspire you and others. A vision of what you truly want, not what you think you should.

Photo By Klearchos Kapoutsis via

2 Replies to “You should…”

  1. That picture is excellent. I keep wondering if the point was to remind us that, in the end, we are all asses.

    HOWEVER, this post really fits into the heavy dose of Core Values and Core Purpose I have received this week. To paraphrase Hoby Darling the Skullcandy CEO :
    If you are, and everyone at the company is really living the Core Values and is on the Core Purpose of the company, you almost don’t need to manage. Anything they will do will be good. Think Zappos. We have essentially eliminated the annual review process. The only thing we review is whether the person is really living our core values. That’s it. Only thing in the annual review.

    • Thanks for your comment John, especially the paraphrased quote from Skullcandy, which I hadn’t heard.

      Yes, that is essentially it: “The only thing we review is whether the person is really living our core values.” Because if every action is in line with that, then the firm is evolving with emerging market conditions and that is all you need.

      At the end of inner leadership though, The Churning does show that there is potential to go one step further. Rather than ‘imposing’ the firm’s purpose and values, if everyone understands their OWN purpose and values and is energised to achieve them then there is even less need for the performance review. Either the individual’s purpose and values are in line with the firm’s, in which case they self-manage, or they aren’t and the person leaves to achieve them elsewhere (taking their drag with them).
      A firm operating at this level would be managing at the level of culture, using the performance review to develop not manage its people. A generative organisation.
      Admittedly that is probably some way off from much of current reality (except perhaps for Skullcandy) but I hope The Churning is laying out the steps to get there.

      Thanks for your encouragement.

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