The Lion & the Mouse or is it The Lion & the Cat?

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.


A lion lived in a cave in the mountains. Coincidentally in the wall of the same cave lived a little mouse. One day, as the lion was sleeping, the mouse came out of its hole and for no reason at all, decided to bite the lion on its tail. The lion roared into wakefulness and tried to grab the mouse but the mouse had run back into the it’s hole and no matter how hard the lion tried he couldn’t reach in to catch it. The hole was too small for his huge paw. The lion was furious. For the next two days it roared and growled, paced and jumped and tried everything in his power to catch the mouse but nothing worked. The little creature had closed itself up in its hole and could not be reached.

And so after 2 days the lion decided to try a new tack. Delegation. The lion went off to the nearest village and found a cat and convinced it to come up to the cave and help him with the mouse. The lion’s strategy was he would bribe the cat with food and the cat would stand guard over the mouse’s hole. Every time they heard the mouse moving around inside the wall of the cave the lion would double the food to the cat and the cat would be even more vigilant.

The poor mouse never stood a chance. One day it came out, the cat jumped on it and the mouse was dead.

But once the mouse was killed the lion had no more need of the cat. And so he stopped feeding it. But by the now the cat was unable to hunt for its own food so he lay in a corner mewing miserably and helplessly till finally the cat died – of starvation.

This story shows some level of analytical thinking on the part of the lion. It falls into the Preventing and Problem Solving area competency.

Analytical Thinking: The ability to tackle a problem by using a logical, systematic, sequential approach.

  • Makes a systematic comparison of two or more alternatives.
  • Notices discrepancies and inconsistencies in available information.
  • Identifies a set of features, parameters, or considerations to take into account, in analysing a situation or making a decision.
  • Approaches a complex task or problem by breaking it down into its component parts and considering each part in detail.
  • Weigh the costs, benefits, risks, and chances for success, in making a decision.
  • Identifies many possible causes for a problem.
  • Carefully weighs the priority of things to be done.

It also shows a competency that falls into the Communication and Influencing cluster.

Persuasive Communication: The ability to plan and deliver oral and written communications that makes an impact and persuade their intended audiences.

  • Identifies and presents information or data that will have a strong effect on others.
  • Selects language and examples tailored to the level and experience of the audience.
  • Selects stories, analogies, or examples to illustrate a point.
  • Creates graphics, overheads, or slides that display information clearly and with high impact.
  • Presents several different arguments in support of a position.

This is a story from an ancient Indian book of leadership behaviours known as the Hitupdesh. It contains stories that teach doctrines of good governance in times of war and peace.

For us the story highlights the ‘victim’ attitude that so many people have – it is more convenient to be pathetic than actually working at something. Let’s look at the very questionable behaviour of the cat. Is it not our responsibility to understand that skills have to be constantly updated to stay relevant in a competitive workplace? And yet we all know people personally who like to be the ‘cat’ – self- destruction is easier than the effort it takes to reinvent.

The fact that the cat dies at the end is to underline the harsh reality of the consequences of this ‘dead end’ behaviour – if you are that useless then who cares?

Interestingly more often than not delegates will ignore the cat as a non-entity and focus instead on criticising the behaviour of the lion. He is seen as unethical and should be answerable for his lack of support. If he were the boss in today’s workplace he would be liable for legal action. Perhaps! But as far we can tell the lion did not promise the cat a lifetime of feeding – he took the cat on for a short -term project.

The mouse on the other hand is seldom mentioned whereas we think his role is quite important. His was an irresponsible action with no thought to the consequences – something that is unacceptable in both professional and personal transactions. This behaviour is the root of all problems. It reminds us of the banking crisis – the scramble for big dividends at the risk of anything – and look what happened!

1 Comment

  • Amrit N Mishra

    This is an interesting stuff on the internet. I think I will have to revisit this place again and again. Thanks for bringing such a thing to us.

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