The Sun and the Wind: Ancient Wisdom for Today’s Entrepreneurs
There’s a fable by the ancient Greek storyteller, Aesop, about “The Sun and the Wind” that offers a powerful lesson for today’s entrepreneurs. And it goes something like this.
As the Sun and the Wind were debating over who was the stronger force, the Sun noticed a traveler walking along the road below them, which gave him an idea for how to settle the matter once and for all.
He pointed to the traveler and offered this proposal to the Wind: “Whichever one of us can get that man to take off his jacket will be considered the stronger force.”
The Wind agreed and went first. But as he put his power on full display, something very interesting happened. While the Wind's strength grew, so did the traveler's resistance. Instead of getting him to take off his jacket, the Wind's force caused the man to cling to his coat even tighter, refusing to let it go, until eventually, the Wind gave up.
Then it was the Sun's turn. He emerged from behind the clouds and quietly focused his heat on the man. At first, nothing appeared to be happening. But then a drop of sweat trickled down the man's forehead. And then another and another, until the traveler was sweating profusely. A few seconds later, he willingly took off his coat.
So, what’s the lesson here for entrepreneurs?
When it comes to working with people—employees, customers, investors, and suppliers—the subtle art of influence is more powerful than direct force.
And storytelling is the ultimate tool for gaining influence with the key audiences you want to reach.
Think about it. When you propose a new initiative that could bring big changes to your company, you'll inevitably encounter employees who don’t want that change to happen. They may not say it aloud, but they’ll be working behind the scenes to undermine your efforts—especially if you lead like the Wind.
That’s because if stakeholders feel like change is being forced upon them, they’ll respond like the traveler resisting the Wind, as they cling tighter to their proverbial jackets, with their minds closed to any opportunities the change could bring to them and the company as a whole.
Instead, be the Sun. Get your employees to willingly—and, perhaps, enthusiastically—join you on the journey.
Tell a story about how you and your leadership team arrived at your decision—the challenges you were wrestling with and what the stakes would be if you didn't act. Be candid about the potential pitfalls that lie ahead. But also reaffirm your deep-down belief in the team that they can all rise to the challenge if everyone works together. Perhaps, you could share a story about another company that experienced similar adversity but has made it through to the other side with a strategy like the one you're proposing. Then give your employees a vision as to why the change you're proposing is vital to their success.
The Bottom Line
If you take the “this is what we’re doing so get over it” approach, exemplified by the Wind, you can expect your team to push back.
But when you tell a story that rallies your employees around your vision—and gives them a glimpse into the role they’re playing in that story—you’re leading like the Sun. You’re using the “warmth” of influence to motivate your team to work alongside you—not against you—to ensure your change initiative is a success.
Sean M. Lyden is CEO of Lyden Communications LLC, a Strategy and Storytelling consultancy that helps entrepreneurs tell their story in a way that grabs attention, garners trust, and grows their business.
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