How a positive leadership style can make a big difference (Article)

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Leadership style can vary from situation to situation

This free High Performance Newsletter article explores an interesting approach to leadership style. A story is used to convey a powerful message about the importance of a positive leadership approach.

Derek Stockley is a training and performance consultant based in Australia.

I came across this story recently. It is taken from: The Art Of Possibilities by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.

A monastery has fallen on hard times. It was once part of a great order but because of religious persecution it was decimated so that there were only five monks left: the Abbot and four others, all of whom were over seventy. Clearly it was a dying order.

Deep in the woods surrounding the monastery was a little hut that the Rabbi from a nearby town used for a spiritual retreat. One day the Abbot visited the hut to see if the Rabbi could offer any advice that might save the monastery. The Rabbi welcomed the Abbot and commiserated. "I know how it is," he said, "the spirit has gone out of people. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore." So the old Rabbi and the old Abbot wept together and spoke quietly of deep things. The time came when the Abbot had to leave. They embraced. "It has been wonderful being with you," said the Abbot, "but have you no piece of advice that might save the monastery?" The Rabbi responded, "I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you."

When the other monks heard the Rabbi’s words, they wondered what possible significance they might have. "The Messiah is one of us? One of us, here, at the monastery? Do you suppose he meant the Abbot? On the other hand, he might have meant Brother Thomas, who is certainly a holy man. Or could he have meant Brother Elrod, who is so crotchety? Surely, he could not have meant Brother Phillip? Of course he didn’t mean me - yet supposing he did? As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect, on the off chance that one of them might be the Messiah. And on the off, off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.

The forest in which it was situated was beautiful so people came to visit the monastery, to picnic or to wander along the old paths. They sensed the aura of extraordinary respect that surrounded the five old monks. They began to come more frequently, bringing their friends, and their friends brought friends. Within a few years, the monastery became once again a thriving order, and - thanks to the Rabbi’s gift - a vibrant, authentic community of light and love for the whole realm.


Leadership style does not have to be overly energetic. In leadership training sessions, I regularly ask participants to describe leaders they have known and admired. Some are famous, others are people at work or in sporting clubs or community organisations. Participants will quote different qualities, but often it includes the qualities that show respect and care for others.

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Derek Stockley conducts public training courses in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, including a Public Train the Trainer Program.

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