How to get the donkey out of the well?

Quite by accident, I came upon an excellent example of leadership resilience at the Beliefnet website, the modern day fable of The Donkey in the Well.

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One day a farmer’s donkey fell into a deep well. The animal cried pitifully for hours as the farmer tried to figure our what to do. Finally the farmer made a decision: The animal was old, and the well needed to be filled anyway. It just wasn’t worth trying to retrieve the donkey.

He invited all of his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly.

Then to everyone’s amazement, he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up.

As the farmer’s neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!

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Leaders often have two choices…they can allow the “dirt thrown on their back” to either bury them or serve as opportunities to “shake it off” and create next steps. Leadership resilience is all about “shaking it off” as stepping stones to propel us forward…using our mistakes and failures as growth experiences to mold and shape us. And when we demonstrate resilience we cultivate that same trait and attitude across the organization with those we lead.

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Suggested Readings:

Leading for a Lifetime: How Defining Moments Shape Leaders of Today and Tomorrow
Warren G. Bennis and Robert J. Thomas

Resilient Leadership
Bob Duggan and Jim Moyer

The Secrets of Resilient Leadership: When Failure Is Not an Option.Six Essential Characteristics for Leading in Adversity
George S. Everly Jr, Douglas A. Strouse, and George S. Everly III

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