Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Lao Tzu
This saying has been around for a long time and it’s both practical and profound. The proverb is a philosophy that true leaders practice. This practice is to develop self-sufficiency were there is dependency.
The opportunities for the practice of this philosophy go back as far as early Biblical time. In Old Testament times it was not uncommon to give yourself into servanthood if you found yourself unable to care and provide for yourself or meet your obligations. If you had obligations that you could not meet, you would voluntarily give yourself away in exchange for your unpaiddebt.
Interestingly, Old Testament law required that after 7 years your master was required to offer you a release from your willing servanthood and allow you to go free. When you left your master’s ownership you did not leave in the same condition as you came. The law required that rather than leaving empty-handed you were to be given provisions sufficient for a new start.
So, while you were under the care and provision of your master you were working on learning and developing new skills that allowed you to contribute to your master’s enterprise. The master cared for you and you added value to your master. And from the value that you created you were cared for. When you left your master, you were not as you arrived – without food,clothing, and knowledge – rather, you leave with clothing, food provisions and a newly practiced set of skills you can use to sustain yourself.
In essence, you were taught to fish, and given a box lunch to hold you over until you caught your own fish.
Applied Teaching Today
Teach a man to fish; there are opportunities for leaders even today. Leaders help people move from dependency to self-confidence and to ultimately become self-sustaining and a self-thinker. Leaders work with people to develop and hone new skills. Leaders help people understand more about how to make good decisions, and helps people find purposes that ignite passion.
The philosophy of a caring leader is to leave a place, environment, or workplace better than you found it; Continuous Improvement of People. This philosophy applies to people in the workplace. The best and most influential leaders understand and practice this philosophy. And it is actually very easy. And you might just enjoy it!
If you are a leader, where are the opportunities to help people around you develop? Do you see them, or have you never really thought about it? Here is a challenge for you: Identify an opportunity to mentor someone and to aid in their development. see if you can “teach them to fish.” You will feel glad when you do! The goal is to make improvements so that things are better after you’ve gone.
Mark McCatty is Senior Consultant at Cornelius & Associates
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image Sources: farm1.static.flickr.com