The Jungle Book and Leadership – How do you want to be remembered?
I recently went to the movies to see the latest rendition of my favourite childhood story, the Jungle Book; and I cried.
This tale of man-cub verses king of the jungle is really a story of leadership style. In our organisations or communities, we are judged by our outcomes. In the business world, we often refer to these measurable goals as key performance indicators -KPIs. In the jungle, it’s called survival.
As a leader, we require that others accomplish tasks to reach desired outcomes. To achieve this, we have a choice to use whatever sources of power are available to influence our followers. This power that we may use to attempt to influence others comes from two sources: position power and personal power.
Position power is derived from the top, and filtered down the chain of command. Personal power is derived from the followers based on the leader’s behaviour.
Shere Kahn, the fierce tiger in the Jungle Book, derived his power from the ‘position’ end of the power spectrum. He used displayed aggression, fear tactics and flexed his mighty muscles in an attempt to influence others to follow his commands. For a while, he was quite effective.
Mowgli, had no claws, fur or sharp teeth. What he had were friends and followers. Some of these bonds, like with Bagheera (black panther), were created over his entire childhood, and some, like Baloo (bear), solidified in only a few weeks. Over this time, whether short or long, Mowgli identified with, shared their feelings and respected their differences. Lacking the source of power in which Khan wielded, he used referent power and demonstrated his power to influence through loyalty and friendship.
In the end, the man-cub won. His loyal followers willingly sacrificing themselves to defend a worthy friend. But we know this is just a story and in real life various types of power are used, and arguably necessary, to achieve timely objectives. So during your leadership journey, ask yourself: Do you want to be remembered as a Mowgli, or a Khan?
So yes, I watched my favourite children’s story. During those 120 minutes, I empathised, felt sympathy for, saw the power of friendship, the love of a mother…and I cried.
Lussier, RN, Achua, CF 2013, Leadership – Theory, application, & skill development, South- Western, Mason Ohio.
Cover photo by Peter Woo