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A Leadership Fable: The General's Royal Camel (The Balance of Power)
When he was of age, King Hammurabi’s son was sent away to receive tutorship from the greatest leaders in his kingdom, to teach him what leadership is comprised of.
He sent him first to the General of his Eastern Army, General Abisare.
Over the years he gleaned valuable insight from the wise old General, and the following tale is one of his many lessons:
One day, as the Prince trained a horse sent to him from the royal stables, he tripped over a bucket the stable boy had left in the open. The Prince cursed and chided the servant,
‘You fool!’ he exclaimed, ‘Your one task in life is to keep the stables clean and organized; you’ve not only failed at that, but nearly killed me with your negligence.’
The stable boy apologized profusely, and walked away with his head hung in shame.
The General observed silently from the window.
The Unbalanced Power of the Camel
Later in the day, the General greeted the Prince as he admired his horse,
‘You understand horses well, perhaps you can help me’
‘I can certainly try’ said the Prince.
‘I’ve been brought a camel from Arabia that shows potential, but my servants say he is worthless. I cannot understand why, because he is swifter than any horse in my army, and stronger than the ox that pulls my farmer’s plow. I need you to spend a day with the creature and report back to me.’
So the next day the Prince rose early to train the camel. The beast was majestic to behold, and the Prince was surprised at it’s size; next to it his horse seemed like a pony. As climbed on the beast as it knelt, he felt powerful; the world seemed to shrink when the camel rose to his feet. When the camel galloped, the speed caught him off guard, and his eyes grew in wonder at the magnificent creature.
But when he returned to the General, he led the camel by rope, walking angrily back to the stable.
‘Well? What report do you bring?’ asked the General.
‘The beast is a fool,’ the Prince grumbled, ‘At first he seemed powerful; noble and majestic. My horse could not keep up with him, and he bore my weight as if I were a child. His value seemed to surpass the gold of the kingdom until we stopped by the lake.’
‘As soon as we stopped, I climbed off to get a drink; as I knelt to scoop the water into my mouth, the beast kicked me into the water! I rose to beat him, but realized that I could not because his pride would not accept discipline, and his strength was far greater than mine. How can I train such a foolish beast? So my only advice to you General, is to destroy the creature, for as your servants say, he is worthless.’
The General nodded, scratching his beard in thought. Then he turned to the Prince.
Respect and Balance of Power
‘Your horse Prince, has sense; it knows that you hold power over it’s life, even though it could crush your head with a single kick. There’s power on both sides.'
'Yesterday, the words you spoke against the stableboy reveals something in your character – you were not wise like your horse, but foolish like my camel.’
‘When you become a ruler of men, you must realize - like your horse - that they have the power to destroy you, and if you treat them without respect, they will do exactly that. There’s strength on both sides, and to maintain a proper balance, you must both show respect through your words. Otherwise they will think, ‘He is a fool; who can train such a beast? We must destroy him, for he is worthless.’
'Just as my camel fails to acknowledge your power, you have failed to respect the power of your people. Remember this lesson when you become their ruler.'