COMMENTARY 893.1: A Parable About Leadership

Listening to politicians’ nasty rhetoric, one might think that leadership has to be aggressive and confrontational, but consider this parable about leadership.

A student assigned to write an essay about an effective leader wrote this story:

“I’ve been taking a bus to school for years. Most passengers keep to themselves and no one ever talks to anyone else.

“About a year ago, an elderly man got on the bus and said loudly to the driver, ‘Good morning!’ Most people looked up, annoyed, and the bus driver just grunted. The next day the man got on at the same stop and again he said loudly, ‘Good morning!’ to the driver. Another grunt. By the fifth day, the driver relented and greeted the man with a semi-cheerful ‘Good morning!’ The man announced, ‘My name is Benny,’ and asked the driver, ‘What’s yours?’ The driver said his name was Ralph.

“That was the first time any of us heard the driver’s name and soon people began to talk to each other and say hello to Ralph and Benny. Soon Benny extended his cheerful ‘Good morning!’ to the whole bus. Within a few days his ‘Good morning!’ was returned by a whole bunch of ‘Good mornings’ and the entire bus seemed to be friendlier. People got to know each other.

“If a leader is someone who makes something happen, Benny was our leader in friendliness.

“A month ago, Benny didn’t get on the bus and we haven’t seen him since. Everyone began to ask about Benny and lots of people said he may have died. No one knew what to do and the bus got awful quiet again.

“So last week, I started to act like Benny and say, ‘Good morning!’ to everyone and they cheered up again. I guess I’m the leader now. I hope Benny comes back to see what he started.”

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 9

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  2. I really like this story on several levels: one that it shows that leadership is really about whoever takes on the challenge; two it shows that leadership is transferable…and teachable!

    I may have to borrow it for my blog! Thanks for sharing it!

  3. I enjoy reading your articles and appreciate you very much. I am a big fan of your Website.

    I’d like to share my experience about effective communication.

    When I moved to Oregon, I realized that I had to do away with saying hi or hello habits. Majority of my co-workers and managers passed by me and preferred looking at a blank wall instead of having an eye contact. They knew I would look in the eye, smile, and say “Hello, how are you today?”
    Their ignorance didn’t stop my habits but I became frustrated. After few years, unwillingly, I changed as I thought my manners were not welcomed or it wasn’t the norm.
    I began undoing what I was taught to do—respect others and when you see someone, greet respectfully and genuinely.
    Today, in every networking group or every leadership talk I discover that the emphasis is on human interactions and the importance of meet and greet.

    I am thrilled to witness that the habits of the past and politeness are promoted but at the same time I am annoyed to do what I was forced to undo.

    Thank you for the encouraging articles.

    Best Regards,

    Hemi

  4. Thank you. As an Elementary School Principal, I remind my bus drivers that they are the first ones to see the students in the morning. They have the gift to be perhaps for some students, the first positive person they’ll see that day. I shall encourage them to remember to be the Benny’s of the world.

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  6. I prefer to think Benny moved on to another bus to practice his “leadership” seeing it was no longer needed on this bus. Regardless, I know Benny didn’t die…he lives on in the leadership of the author.

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