18th Camel Leadership

By June 1, 2010Business, Theology

The Archbishop of York has a lovely story about camels. There once was a Bedouin who had three sons and 17 camels. In his will he left half of his 17 camels to his elder son, one-third to his second son and one-ninth to his youngest son.

When the father died, the children attempted to divide the camels according to their father’s will, and struggled to divide 17 camels into one-half, one-third and one-ninth. They went to consult a very wise old man, who said: ‘Simple. I will lend you my camel. It will be the 18th, and you can get what your father wanted you to have.’ Eureka! Half of 18 is nine, a third of 18 is six, and a ninth of 18 is two, making a total of 17. The sons divided up the camels, then the wise old man took his camel home. I think that a good way of describing the job of a leader is to use this 18th camel as an analogy, whereby the leader is essentially a catalyst to help complex things work out smoothly.

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