In the 6th century BC, Aesop told a fable about the Lion and The Four Oxen.
A lion used to prowl around a field where four oxen dwelled. Many times he would try to eat them but whenever he approached the four oxen would back their tales up to each other with their bodies pointed outward in different directions. No matter what direction the lion approached, he was met by the horns of one of them and could do nothing. At last, the oxen fell to quarreling amongst themselves and so each went off to a pasture of their own in a separate corner of the field. Then the lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end to all four.
Aesop’s moral to this fable has become one of the most famous sayings in the English language: United We Stand, Divided We Fall.
Throughout history, Aesop’s moral has been repeated over and over. Six centuries later the bible said “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.” Abraham Lincoln used a paraphrased version of that in his acceptance speech as candidate for President in June, 1858, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
The winners of every major war, conflict or cause all had their roots in everyone being united as one. The United States exist because farmers, merchants, clergy, family members and more all put the cause of the American revolution above their own individual problems and needs.
A Moral For Leaders
Behind Aesop’s moral lies a deeper moral that speaks to us as leaders. When no one assumes a leadership role, everything falls to pieces. If just one of the oxen had been strong enough in character to lead the other oxen, they could have maintained their united stance against the lion. They become divided because there was no leader amongst the four of them.
Everywhere we turn we see signs of division, lack of unity and too many people more concerned about themselves than others. In major corporations, the halls of governments, sports, education, science and communities of all kinds, this lack of unity continues to spread like a wildfire.
We surely don’t lack for information about how to be an effective leader today. There are more books, leadership coaches and consultants and more education programs about leadership than at any time in the history of the world. One does not have to go very far or exert much effort to get first class guidance on how to be an effective leader.
How can there be so much available to develop good leaders while lack of unity continues to spiral out of control? The crisis we face today isn’t about the techniques, methods and attributes of good leaders. We face a crisis of courage and character.
Too many of those who have learned how to be excellent leaders don’t step up to the plate when it’s really needed out of fear. They fear for their jobs, their image, their family, their future. Have too many of us become too comfortable in our way of life to take the risk when the stakes are high, the controversy is present and the consequences possibly severe?
America was founded by individuals who were willing to risk their life for what they believed in. They not only possessed the courage to act, they possessed the character to know right from wrong. The United States exist because of courage and character. The disunity we see all around us at home and on foreign shores can only be solved when enough leaders stand up for what is right and enough people follow them because they are people of true character.
United we stand. Divided we fall. Where are the leaders with the courage and character to unite us all?