... What means, can leaders really change?
This is the question professor Manfred Kets De Vries asks in chapter 10 of his book «Reflections on Groups and Organizations». He gives the answer telling a story.
«The lion was completetly convinced about his dominance of the animal kingdom. One day he wanted to check whether all the other animals knew he was the undisputed king of the jungle. He was so confident that he decided not to talk to the smaller creatures. Instead, he went straight to the bear. "Who is the king of the jungle?", asked the lion. The bear replied, "Of course, no one else but you, sir".
The lion gave a great roar of approval. He continued his journey and met the tiger. "Who is the king of the jungle?" The tiger quickly responded, "All of us know that you are the king". The lion gave another roar of pleasure. Next on his list was the elephant. He caught up with the elephant at the edge of a river and asked him the same question, "Who is the king of the jungle?" The elephant trumpeted, lifted his trunk, grabbed the lion, threw him in the air and smashed him into a tree. He fished him out of the tree and pounded him into the ground, lifted him up once more and dumped him into the river. Then he jumped on top of the lion, dragged him through the mud, and finally left him hanging in some bushes.
The lion, dirty, beaten, bruised, and battered, struggled to get to his feet. He looked the elephant sadly in the eyes and said, "Look, just because you don't know the answer, there's no reason for you to be so mean-spirited about it".»
And Kets De Vries ends his idea about this story: «Some leaders are like the lion. Reality testing isn't their forte. They are not good at making sense out of feedback. Instead, they create their own reality, wanting to see only what they like to see. They are not very open to change.»