Pillar #3 in my 7 Pillars of Leadership is all about building powerful partnerships.
Because connection is a form of currency – and partnerships give you the ability to leverage your gifts, abilities, talents, and experiences .
If you want to move through life with ease and grace – and make your work more enjoyable, you don’t go it alone.
The children’s story ‘Stone Soup’ shows the concept beautifully, and also illustrates many skills and qualities which compromise exceptional leadership.
I’ve added elements of the beingness of leadership in parentheses so you could see how and where it can show up.
“Once upon a time, a wise old man decided to go on a journey. So he packed a small bag, said goodbye to his wife, and set off. He traveled all day without meeting anyone. When it was evening, he came to a small village. “I think I’ll stop here for the night,” he said to himself.
Near the center of the village, he met a group of people. So he introduced himself. “I’m a simple traveler,” he said, “looking for a safe place to sleep and a hot meal.” (The traveler is wise, yet unassuming.)
“We’d be glad to offer you a place to sleep,” the villagers told him, “but we have very little food. Our crops were very poor this year, and there’s not much to eat in the whole village. Most of us are just barely getting by.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” the old man said. “But you needn’t worry about feeding me. I already have everything I need. In fact, I was thinking of making some stone soup to share with all of you.” (He listens, soothes the villagers’ worries and offers to be of help with a specific act of generosity that he can do.)
“Stone soup?” the villagers asked. “What’s that? We’ve never heard of stone soup.”
“Oh, it’s wonderful,” said the old man. “Best soup I’ve ever tasted. If you bring me a soup pot and some water, I’ll make some for all of us.” (He is positive, generous, and offers a vision of hope.)
And so the villagers rushed back to their homes. When they returned, one was carrying a large soup pot, another had wood for a fire, and others brought water.
When the fire was going and the water had begun to boil, the old man took out a small silk pouch. With great ceremony, he reached in and pulled out a smooth, round stone. He carefully dropped the stone into the boiling water. The villagers watched eagerly. The old man began to slowly stir the pot, sniffing the aroma and licking his lips in anticipation. “I do like a tasty stone soup,” he said. “Of course, stone soup with cabbage—now that’s really special.” (He gently guides them, inspires them with what might be to come.)
“I might be able to find a bit of cabbage,” one villager said. And off she went to her house, returning with a small cabbage she had stored away in her pantry.
“Wonderful!” said the old man, as he added the cabbage to the pot. “This reminds me of the time I had stone soup with cabbage and a bit of salted beef. It was unbelievably good.” (From his suggestions, individuals voluntarily step forward, taking action, doing their part to contribute to the effort.) After a moment of silence, the village butcher spoke up. “I know where there’s a bit of salted beef,” he said. And off he went to his shop to get it. When he returned, the old man added the beef to the soup pot and continued to stir. (And, again, in reflection, an individual thinks of what he can offer, and goes to follow through on his commitment.)
“Can you imagine what this soup would taste like if we had a bit of onion…and perhaps a few potatoes…and a carrot or two…and some mushrooms. Oh, this would be a meal fit for royalty.” (With each step, the wise man adds idea and paints details to the vision so that it becomes more clear and thus inspiring. He creates momentum.)
And before he knew it, the soup pot was filled to the brim with vegetables of all kinds— carrots and potatoes, mushrooms and onions, turnips and green beans, beets and celery—all brought by the men and women and children of the village. Not only that, but the village baker came out with some fresh bread and butter.
And as the soup simmered slowly over the fire, the wonderful aroma began to waft over the villagers. And they began to relax and talk together, sharing songs and stories and jokes. (Together, a magnificent meal is “built” seemingly from what had been believed to be, “little” to eat, and so many struggling to get by. He reduced their sense of worry and impoverishment, showing them the wealth they had in working together. )
When the soup was finally done, the old man ladled it out into bowls, and they all shared a delicious meal together. There was more than enough for everyone to eat their fill. Afterward, they all declared that it was the best soup they had ever tasted. The mayor of the village pulled the old man aside, and quietly offered him a great deal of money for the magic stone, but the old man refused to sell it. (The wise man creates and enjoys the collective effort, and does not take unfair advantage of his leadership. He keeps to the initial contract – a request for lodging and a hot meal.)
The next morning, he woke early and packed up his belongings.
As he was leaving the village, he passed by a group of children playing at the side of the road. He handed the youngest one the silk pouch containing the stone, and he whispered, “It was not the stone that performed the magic. It was all of us together.” (He passes along wisdom, giving it freely and joyfully so that others may benefit after his is gone. He leaves behind a modest, empowering legacy.)
The qualities and skills demonstrated in the story of the Stone Soup are deceptively simple.
In some cases we have to both unlearn and relearn in order to be the leaders we were meant to be.
Learn how to live your leadership.
Experience partnership with other powerful changemakers.
ACTION: The Upside Challenge of the week is to reflect on where you have made stone soup in your business or community.
Gather your partners in potential.
Decide on a recipe. Make something delicious.