Leadership parable: The ideal leader

Idealism almost always works better in theory than in practice. But that’s not to say personas or symbols of idealism are not without value. For one thing, they could serve as a destination towards which you could move: The closer you get to it, the better you are.

For leaders in organizations, though there are a fair number of real-life examples of leadership qualities, an ideal is laid out in the Arabian legend of King Sulayman. Called the perfect king, there were a few aspects which earned him this moniker.

Let’s look at each of them and their relevance to modern leaders.

The ideal leader leads his or her team, bringing them hope for an even better future

Wisdom to understand his subjects

A key reason why King Sulayman was unparalleled among kings was his wisdom that enabled him to understand the subjects he ruled over. This included not just humans but animals, birds and the inhabitants of the water as well. In this regard, there is an interesting legend.

The legend tells about the king summoning all the animals of his kingdom for a meeting. Among those who came for the meeting was the king of the ants. From the king of the ants, Sulayman learned that a band of horsemen were approaching the kingdom intent to overtake it.

Thanks to this warning, King Sulayman was able to better prepare to meet the incoming horsemen.

Ants are among the tiniest of all the living things. Their miniature size often lead to them being considered as insignificant. But that certainly wasn’t King Solomon’s attitude. By heeding the words of the king of the ants, he made the wise decision- taken for the sake of his kingdom or container.

The lesson for contemporary leaders from this is the wisdom in understanding your team members, their concerns and their feedback. And not just that, you should not hesitate to take the necessary actions based on what you learned from them.

In this context, the idea of attunement- which is a change agent’s ability to glean the contents of another person’s mind- is significant.

KIng Sulayman marching with his army


Fairness is often said to be the foundation of a leader’s power. And by all accounts, that was certainly the case with KIng Sulayman. Instead of taking autocratic policy decisions which then his people would be expected to follow at any cost, the king’s decisions were based on the requirement and welfare of his people. Also, his was a just rule in that punishment for offenders were meted out depending on the gravity of the offense.

A fair leadership is very much linked to the idea of safety- the threshold of transformation beyond which your subjects or team members would begin to revolt against any change you try to instigate.

Efficient administration

Rather than taking a top-down approach to leading, King Sulayman was very much involved in the daily administration of the kingdom. For his was a rule not solely concerned with the creation of policies. He was equally invested in seeing to it that the policies were implemented and the rule of law prevailed in the kingdom.

In modern organizations, it’s important for the leaders to ensure they manage their team and operations well on a day to day basis. One key aspect which helps in this regard is smooth communication with your team members. Better communication in turn depends on how much you understand your team members, their skills, aspirations and values.

In this regard, the Temenos Vision Lab- a unique session developed by Temenos+Agility could be of immense help.

Primarily meant for change agents to discover their True Personal Vision and teams to find their Compelling Shared Vision, TVL encourages team members to realize their vision and then share their value systems and aspirations with others.

Aside from fostering team bonding, this also paves the way for better communication with your team members, now that you know them on a deeper level.

In a data-driven world, a leader’s scientific and technological knowledge is crucial

Knowledge of technology

History has shown that whenever a culture with advanced technology comes in touch with a culture with inferior technology, it almost always results in the former dominating the latter.

While such vile attitude is hardly commendable, it’s nonetheless important to be on top of things relating to technology and the relevant information. Not only would it make your job easier, it also helps you seize opportunities and take your organization forward at a faster pace.

One of the key reasons why King Sulayman was able to lead so efficiently was his thorough knowledge of the technology of his time. In fact, he is even credited with the invention of glass in the legends.

In modern times, related to technology is all the socio-scientific information that scientific and technological advances bring in its wake. As important as understanding technology well is the ability to consume large volumes of information and apply relevant information when the time calls for it. Called metis, this is one key parameter which is extremely relevant for leaders to succeed in the information age.

You can enjoy more inspiring tales like that of King Sulayman in the wonderful book, ‘Stories of the prophets’

For the previous entry in this series, you can check here.

Banner image: Ethan Weil on Unsplash

Temenos Vision Lab

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Temenos Vision Lab- Amsterdam, Netherlands( Nov 2, 2018)

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