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"The longest journey is the journey inwards."
Dag Hammarskold

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Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 443

Estimated reading time:  3:00

 

I’ve been working with a couple of colleagues this week in hot and humid Toronto. We’ve been exploring story as part of our work. I was reminded today about the philosopher Mircea Eliade’s (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mircea_Eliade) sacred story. 

 

‘During the Second World War, in a Nazi labour camp, the prisoners were organized into tents of a few hundred people each. Every morning, the prisoners would emerge to be marched for another day of hard labour. Upon return in the evening, only those who had worked were issued their day’s ration of thin soup and stale bread. Now of course with such sparse nutrition, prisoners would soon get sick. If a prisoner did not emerge from their tent for the days work, they did not get fed that evening, and soon he or she would die of starvation. The food was so sparse that an unwritten rule became the norm: The evening’s food was not be shared – it was everyone for him or herself. Each tent then experienced the steady rhythm of work, starvation and death. 

 

Now, the inhabitants of one tent were in the habit of listening to stories told by one old woman in their midst. Each night, the inhabitants huddled together protecting their meager rations listening to her stories. Then one horrible morning the tent awoke to find their storyteller sick. The inhabitants left her in the tent that morning, filled with apprehension, if not stark fear of what might happen while they were away. That night the people in this tent broke with the norm, and one by one broke a little piece of their own stale bread and a drop or two of their soup to share with the old story teller. And she told them stories. The next night, the same thing, they shared what little they had with the old story teller and she kept telling the life giving stories. Soon the inhabitants decided that she should not go out and work anymore. They would collectively guard her health by sharing their meagre food resources with her. From that day on, until the war’s end and that camp’s eventual liberation, there were no more deaths from starvation within that tent. Sure, people died, the horrors of a labour camp were not simply limited to starvation, but no more people in that tent died of starvation, and most of its inhabitants lived and survived the war.’

 

 

I wonder then what thoughts or ideas does this story prompt for you as a leader?