Reading and talking about Leadership has inspired changes to our organisation even though we still lack a clear definition of this word. Yet, there are some aspects of a Good Leader that we can agree on, and one of these I found (re-)reading The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I thought I would share this with you:

It was then that the fox appeared.

'Good day,' said the fox.

'Good day,' replied the little prince politely, looking up but unable to see anything.

'Over here,' said the voice, 'under the apple tree.'

'Who are you?' said the little prince. 'You're very pretty.'

'I'm a fox,' said the fox.

'Come and play with me,' suggested the little prince. 'I'm terribly sad.'

'I can't play with you,' said the fox. 'I am not tame.'

'Oh! I beg your pardon,' said the little prince. Then, after a moment's thought, he added:' What does "tame" mean ?'

[…]

'Something that is frequently neglected,' said the fox. 'It means "to create ties".'

'To create ties?' 

'Precisely,' said the fox. 'To me, you are still only a small boy, just like a hundred thousand other small boys. And I have no need of you. And you, in turn, have no need of me. 

To you, I'm just a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you shall be unique in the world. To you, I shall be unique in the world.'

In an organisation, a new leader like the Prince is at first like a hundred thousand other leaders to those around him. His or her team, like the Fox, are at first like a hundred thousand other teams. But, for their relationship to become unique, the leader must tame his team.

Taming, especially in this context, does not mean render docile or being submissive through fear and force, but requires a real osmosis between both parties, an exclusive and mutual relationship based on trust and need. The leader needs the team to reach the objectives, the team needs the leader to give sense to their work. 

If this link is not created, if the leader remains for his team “like a hundred thousand other leaders”, if the team remains for the leader “like a hundred thousand other teams”, they will hardly move beyond a cold business relationship, even sometimes leading to mutual fear and attempts to subdue the other.

Joachim Muller is the Business Development and Project Coordinator in the Skills & Training team at CEDR. Contact the Skills team on 020 7536 6070 to learn how we can help your organisation.