Myth and Management

We use stories to break down obstacles to learning…..

The stories that we have used in this series are meant to teach us that we are ultimately responsible for our actions and ourselves. We have to take responsibility for our decisions as well as our miscalculations.
We are told that we must exceed our limitations. But in order to exceed your limitations you must first know what your limitations are.
These stories will help us become more aware of ourselves – our strengths and weaknesses, our values and beliefs, our actions and reactions – because once you become aware of something you can learn to manage it better.

Leadership competencies are leadership & management skills and behaviours that contribute to superior performance. By using a competency-based approach to leadership, organisations can better identify and develop their next generation of leaders. While some leadership competencies are essential to all firms, an organisation should also define what leadership attributes are distinctive to the particular organisation to create competitive advantage. However, skills needed for a particular position may change depending on the specific leadership level in the organisation. By using a competency approach, organisations can determine what positions at which levels require specific competencies. Competencies are the skills, knowledge and behaviours that lead to successful performance.

The following stories look at some of the leadership and management competencies (“The Value-Added Employee,” by Edward J. Cripe and Richard S. Mansfield, Copyright 2002 by Workitect Inc) that are necessary in today’s modern and successful organisation.


The Mango Story
An old woman went to the market to buy mangoes. Her eyesight wasn’t so good. Her hearing wasn’t so good. Her back wasn’t so good either – she was a little bit stooped. The mango seller saw her coming. He put on his best, most trustworthy smile and invited her to come and look at his basket of lovely fresh mangoes. They were – he said – fresh and firm and sweet. She could pick any mango and it would be perfect. They were all perfect. But the old woman had unusual requests. She said she didn’t want fresh firm mangoes. She wanted to make a special chutney for this she needed over ripe, slightly rancid fruit. And since her eyes were so bad she could really do with his help. Could he please find all the slightly rotten mangoes for her?

The mango seller was delighted to help. It’s not every day that someone offers to pay for your bad product. He separated all the fruit into a little pile on the side and said go ahead, pick.
The old woman smiled sweetly, turned back to the pile of firm fruit and picked her mangoes. 

Watch the video with Seema Anand

This story falls into Competencies Dealing with Business – The preventing & problem solving area.

Diagnostic Information Gathering Competency: The ability to identify the information needed to clarify a situation, seek that information from appropriate sources, and use skilful questioning to draw out the information, when others are reluctant to disclose it

  • Identifies the specific information needed to clarify a situation or to make a decision.
  • Gets more complete and accurate information by checking multiple sources.
  • Probes skilfully to get at the facts, when others are reluctant to provide full, detailed information.
  • Routinely walks around to see how people are doing and to hear about any problems they are encountering.
  • Questions others to assess whether they have thought through a plan of action.
  • Questions others to assess their confidence in solving a problem or tackling a situation.
  • Asks questions to clarify a situation.
  • Seeks the perspective of everyone involved in a situation.
  • Seeks out knowledgeable people to obtain information or clarify a problem.


The life of Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook, possibly the most influential woman in the corporate sector, has been used a compelling narrative experiment by management trainers. Her story to success – a tough one, as is to be expected – was converted into an anonymous training model. But, and here is the interesting part, it was converted into 2 case studies – one with a woman protagonist and one with a man. The training sessions showed that where her story was told as that of an anonymous woman people reacted negatively to what they saw as a ‘manipulative, conniving, unsympathetic woman’. The same story told with a male lead – he was admired as a goal oriented achiever, a worthy role model!
Studies show that gender bias is not gender specific, meaning that men and women both have the same biases about gender. The conventional methods, ruses and insights that a man might use to forge forward – we are not comfortable with women doing the same.
When I tell the story of the old woman in a corporate setting there is always a debate – were the old woman’s actions ethical? Is she not manipulative? Is this not the same as gaining the trust of a person and then breaking that trust.
The old woman was not breaking anybody’s trust. We know that the mango seller was passing off rotten fruit as perfect. Suppose he had managed to cheat the old woman – what then? The answer is – nothing! ‘Oh dear what a pity’ but it would still be her problem.
To me this story is a brilliant example of goal setting. It is about understanding clearly what you want and how to achieve it as efficiently as possible taking into account the limitations that you are working with.
The old woman wanted good fruit, realised her handicaps and used her skills to make sure she was not cheated.


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