The Tale of Will and Tom: Leadership and Management

Posted by Doc
Mar 12 2009

As the band grew, so Robin found the need to split it up into teams. Some teams would go foraging, some would go hunting for food, some would see to the health and safety of their camp, and some would do “the work of the band” – revolution!

You may have heard of Will Scarlet – renowned throughout that company of forest green and earth brown-clad folk for the flamboyance of his attire. Bright reds and oranges and such were not the best choice for disappearing into the surrounding forest. But Will had his style, and was willing to make adjustments to his behavior in order to indulge his fancies.

Will rapidly became the leader of one of the teams in Robin’s band of insurgents. And Robin observed that Will’s team always acted with great spirit. Where Will led, his team would follow. What Will was passionate about, his team was passionate about. When Will had his rare moments of discouragement, his team was there to remind him of all the good he and they had done. And back he’d bounce!

Will’s clothing, in many ways, reflected his personality: flamboyant without being loud; full of life and energy; bright and shining and easy for those around him to follow. His team took to wearing bits of red and orange and yellow about them – never as flamboyant as their leader, but absorbing what they could and imitating him from their love and respect and admiration.

In contrast to Will was Tom. Tom came from a small village that had been destroyed by Prince John’s soldiers. Tom was born to a woodsman and his wife, and was used to spending time alone in the forest, being very self-sufficient and self-reliant. Tom’s parents were quiet folk, leading simple lives. Their home was small but always seemed neat and well cared for.

When Robin first met Tom, he thought “Here’s a fellow who will quietly go about his job, getting things done. There will be neatness and order, but no passion. I don’t imagine he’ll ever be much of a leader.”

But, of course, being a good leader Robin had early realized the importance of trusting his lieutenants and giving them the authority to make decisions. So when he found that Tom was leading one of the teams, he went to Little John to ask about it.

“My large friend,” began Robin, “I see that our friend Tom has become the leader of a team. I admit to some surprise.”

“Why so?” asked John.

“Well,” said Robin, “Tom always struck me as the quiet-follower-get-things-done type. He never really seemed to me to have the qualities of a leader of men.”

John, as was John’s wont, paused to think before responding to Robin. Up until that time, he really hadn’t thought about exactly why he had made Tom a leader. It just seemed to have happened over time.

“As I think about it,” John said to Robin, “I see that it was that quiet-get-things-done quality that caught my attention, Robin. I’d give him a task to do, and it would get done. There was never any fanfare or foofaraw, just quiet competence.

“Now I understand what you mean when you say that he didn’t seem to have what it takes to be a leader of men. But I found that when a task assigned to Tom required more than one man to accomplish, he would quietly organize a work group and get it done.”

Robin pondered this for a bit. He wondered, at that moment, about what he’d always assumed about “leadership.”

After their conversation, Robin and John both found themselves watching Tom and thinking about how he always seemed to get things done.

And Robin also noticed that while Will’s team always “went at it with a will,” the results were rarely as neat and tidy, or as workmanlike and solid, as were those of Tom’s team.

And yet if you were to have asked Robin at the outset who would be the more effective leader of the two, Robin would have named Will without a moment’s hesitation. And even now, Robin would say that Will was the more effective leader, but that Tom was better at getting things done.

Several weeks after their initial conversation, Robin and John came together for another chat. Each of them had observed some interesting things, and they wanted to share.

Robin found John sitting on his favorite tree stump, looking over the camp area. Robin pulled up a log and joined John. They sat in companionable silence for a time, watching their band going about their tasks.

“I’ve been thinking,” began Robin. “I’ve been thinking about our conversation about Tom and his team.”

“As have I,” said John.

“I’ve also been thinking about Will and his team,” continued Robin, with some thoughtfulness in his tone.

“I’ve noticed that Tom’s team never seems to get excited, always seems to get their tasks done, and with a minimum of fuss and mess. When they’re done, you’d never know they’d been working, except for the results.

“Whereas Will’s team always seems to go about their work with a great deal of energy and noise. One always knows when they’re about a task, from the very storm and commotion. Happy? ‘most always. And it’s clear that they would follow Will into the very jaws of death.

“But it seems that their tasks are never quite as well done, nor wrapped up as neat and tidy, as are those of Tom’s team. What think you, my friend?”

John, being John, pondered. Not that he hadn’t been pondering for quite some time, you understand. But John rarely spoke without pondering.

“Robin,” began John, “you are a fine leader. You have drawn to you a group of people who might never have come together for a lesser man. You have shown them your vision, have shared with them your mission, and have captivated their hearts and minds.

“As a hunter, you are without peer. As a fighter, you are feared and respected throughout the forest and the land. When it comes to giving rousing talks to lighten and charge the hearts of the band, there is none better.

“But I’ve found that when it comes to cooking supper, chopping wood, or making sure that a fighting team has enough arrows, there are others of us who are more suited to these things.”

This certainly gave Robin pause! He had never really given much thought to why his band worked as well as it did. He had just assumed that his leadership had made it happen.

But John’s observations, as always, cut simply and cleanly to the heart of the matter.

“As you say, John. And if that is so, then it seems to me that while my strengths lend themselves to drawing folk to me and to giving them of my heart and spirit and thought, yours is to get things done. I’ve found, almost from the day we first met, that you were able to ensure that folk were fed and housed and clothed and were therefore able to pursue the vision and the mission.

“And if that is so, then perhaps the same is true of Will and Tom. Will has the same fire and passion as I do, and seems to be nearly as adept at firing up the team. Tom, on the other hand, quietly goes about his tasks, getting things done.

“Do you suppose that that’s the key difference? That those of us who are seen and thought of as ‘leaders’ have the knack for reaching men’s minds, hearts, and spirits, while there are those of us who might be called ‘managers’ who ‘manage’ to get things done. The ‘managers’ are those who see to the feeding and clothing and housing of the bodies while the ‘leaders’ see to their minds and spirits.”

John pondered. He never liked to speak before he’d had a chance to think, and always liked to think before he spoke.

“I think, Robin, that you are largely right. Perhaps it’s a bit simple, but I think we’re on the right track.

“Perhaps I’d put it this way…

“Leaders are those who draw folk to follow them down the road, shouting ‘Hurrah!’ and waving their banners.

“Managers are those who make sure that the folk are fed and clothed and have a place to sleep at night.

“I think that Managers might need to be Leaders, as it’s hard to get folk to do things without at least a bit of inspiration.

“But I think that Leaders need not be Managers, as long as they have Managers with them.”

And when they parted, they agreed that they would combine Tom’s and Will’s teams. For, perhaps, Will’s Leader-ship and Tom’s Manager-ship would make for even more success from the new team.

Robin and John watched, in amazement, as that is just what happened. The team’s forays against enemies, their hunting trips, their projects to build, feed, scout, or clean all seemed to be done with more spirit than either team had showed before, and to be done with greater precision and success.

We’ve all heard that “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”
This is true with styles and personalities.

< Continued from The Tale of Little John

One Response

  1. Chris Matts says:

    Simply brilliant!

    I personally believe the narrative form is the way forward.

    When you write an article, the author is having a monologue at the reader. As a reader, you are forced to decide whether the material is correct. If they are not sure, they will likely reject.

    When you create a narrative, the reader is observing the conversation. They are not having an opinion forced on them. Instead, the reader can take a neutral position (3rd position in NLP) and decide later about the material.

    I particularly like the fact that robin hood is learning from his team rather than the other way round.

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