Parable of a Good Leader

What makes a good leader?


“Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a king in Ireland. Ireland had lots of small kingdoms in those days, and this king’s kingdom was one among many. Both king and kingdom were quite ordinary and nobody paid much attention to either of them.

“But one day, the king received a huge beautiful diamond from a relative who had died. It was the largest diamond anyone had ever seen. It dazzled everyone. The other kings began to pay attention to him for if he had a dimaond like this he must be special. The people, too, came from far and wide to see the diamond. The king had it on constant display in a glass box so that all who wished could come to see and admire it. Of course, armed guards kept a constant vigil. Both king and kingdom prospered, and the king attributed all his good fortune to the diamond.

“One day a nervous guard asked to see him. The guard was visibly shaken. He told the king terrible news: the diamond had developed a flaw! A crack right down the middle! The king was horrified and ran to the glass box to see for himself. It was true. The diamond was now flawed terribly.

“He called all the jewelers in the land to ask their advice. They gave him only bad news. The flaw was so deep, they said, that if they were to try to sand it down, they would grind it to practically nothing, and if they tried to split it into two still substantial stones, it easily might shatter into a million fragments.

“As the king was pondering these terrible options, an old jeweler who had arrived late came to him and said, ‘If you will give me a week with that stone, I think I can fix it.’ The king didn’t believe him at first because the other jewelers were so sure it couldn’t be fixed, but the old man was insistent. Finally the king relented, but said he couldn’t let the diamond out of his castle. The old man said that would be all right: He could work there and the guards could stand outside the room where he was working.

“The king, having no better solution, agreed to let the old man work. For a week he and the guards hovered about, hearing scratching and gentle pounding and grinding. They wondered what he was doing and what would happen if the old man were tricking them.

“Finally, the week was up and the old man came out of the room. King and guards rushed in to see the old man’s work, and the king burst into tears of joy. It was better! The old man had carved a perfect rose on the top of the diamond, and the crack that ran down inside now was the stem of the rose.”

Every leader has a special gift visible for all to see and even admire. Effective and genuine leadership, however, does not deny fault and flaw in self, pretending perfection and fueling delusions of righteousness. A good leader does not hide her weakness, which is the other side of the gift, but confesses it unabashadly.

A good leader grants permission to self and others for the work of transformation, turning the very weakness into its corresponding strength: fear to courage, pride to self-respect, perfectionism to patience, anger to generosity, etc.

Finally, a good leader is not embarrassed by the process of healing. By being openly vulnerable to another’s healing and help, the good leader allows something beautiful and unexpected to emerge out of the flaw. A rose grows with the thorn.

The story of the king’s diamond comes from Clarence Thomson, in his book “Parables and the Enneagram” p.1-2 Metamorphous Press, Portland OR, 1996

2 thoughts on “Parable of a Good Leader

  1. Pingback: Parable of a Good Leader | BE-KNOW-DO

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