Panchatantra and the CIO: The Tortoise and the Swans


Once upon a time there lived a tortoise. Some might argue that he was very talkative but others might see him for what he really was - imminently knowledgeable and altruistic. You see, this tortoise was not just content at accumulating a vast ocean of information; he wanted to pass it on to anybody and everybody with whom he came in contact with.

Needless to say, our tortoise was intensely curious and fearless by nature. So, what is the problem, you ask? Read On!

The tortoise lived on a pond that was a source of water and food. Our gregarious tortoise had two lifelong friends - pretty swans who also lived on the pond. These friends grew up together and were inseparable through thick and thin. Their motto: One for all and all for one!

This story could have had a happy ending but nature had other plans.

One year, there was a drought. The pond dried up and with it the dreams of our friends the tortoise and the swans. They had many happy memories of the pond so they decided to stick it out even as they saw some of their friends die and other leave for greener pastures. Each passing day increased their thirst and chipped away at their resolve. Soon it was apparent that if they stayed on they will die. So, the three put their heads together to think up a strategy.

Of course, the swans could save their lives by flying away to another pond but they were not going to leave their buddy alone to die. They were not equipped to fly while carrying the tortoise. Our swans put their pretty little heads together and came up with a plan. They suggested to the tortoise that they will fly with each holding one end of a sick. The tortoise would hold on to this stick and voila!

The swans loved the idea but had a concern. They were afraid that their talkative friend could not keep his mouth shut for a long time and if he opened his mouth mid flight. So they asked their friend, "we think this is a great idea but are you sure you can keep quiet during this long flight?" "Of course I can," replied the indignant tortoise, adding, "do you think I am stupid to open my mouth knowing that I will fall from several hundred feet and die?"

Off they flew with the tortoise holding on to the stick.

The swans flew low to make their friend relatively comfortable. Their friend, ever so grateful, held on to the stick and his promise.

As the trio flew over a village the villagers could not believe their eyes: they had never seen such a sight even at the Ringling Brothers' circus. Some used their tin cans to put in a call to CNN while others started to excitedly clap and point at the trio with their fingers.

The swans were busy flying so they missed the commotion but our tortoise friend's keen sense of observation caught everything. The scene replayed over and over in his mind and he got increasingly angry. "What is wrong with these people?" he thought to himself but kept quiet.

Then came another village and another crowd excited by the spectacle yelling and clapping excitedly. Now our tortoise friend had enough and had to say something!

Leadership Lessons:

  1. Know when you keep your mouth shut
  2. If you find yourself 1000 ft up in the air, dangling on a stick, there are two pretty swans to blame
  3. Use your own capability to find your own way out of a mess
  4. Suggestions are a dime a dozen; pick carefully for the wrong one can get you killed

About the Author:

Sourabh Hajela is a management consultant and trainer with over 20 years of experience creating shareholder value for his Fortune 50 clients. His consulting practice is focused on IT strategy, alignment and ROI. For more information, please visit his consulting firm.


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