Retold: Story of the Tortoise and the Hare

Sculpture of the Tortoise and the Hare from the Aesop Fable

This is a very famous and classical story from the Aesop’s fables about the race between a tortoise and a hare. Many of you knows that the story goes somewhat like this:

One day a tortoise and a hare gets involved in a heated argument about who is faster. They eventually agreed to compete in a race. In the race, the hare very quickly takes the lead. After reaching a distance where he feels the tortoise will not be able to catch up, he stops down and took a nap. He wakes up eventually to find that the tortoise has crawled, slowly and steadily past the hare to reach the finish line first.

In the Aesop’s fables, that story would have ended there with the tortoise declared victorious. I happened to stumble upon this curious extended version which added a few very interesting twist to the otherwise boring story. This version is written with plenty of lessons we could learn from. I shall discuss the leadership lessons from this fable.

Leadership Lesson #1 from the initial version: [tweet_quote hashtags=”#leadership #leaders #lessons” ]Consistency, more than speed, increases your chance to win a competition[/tweet_quote].

The story continues …

The hare is  very upset with his lost. As he carefully ponders over what happened, he realises that he was over-confident, careless and being complacent.

He proceeds to challenge the tortoise to yet another race. This time, he wins with a great margin as he runs as fast as he could until he crosses the finish line.

Leadership Lessons #2: 
– Combining consistency and speed gives you greater chance of winning.
– If you have two team members where one works slower than the other, the one with higher pace will get the job done quicker.
– It is good to be slow and consistent but don’t stop there. Learn to grow and get even better at what you are doing so that you will be quick and consistent.

Yet, the tortoise refuses to concede defeat and challenges the hare to another race. This time, the tortoise must think of a winning strategy. He knows that it is impossible to beat the hare if they were to run the same race again. He needs to make a race which allows him to use his strengths optimally. After thinking for a while, the tortoise proposes a race using a different route.

The hare agrees to the proposal readily.

They begin running again and, like before, the hare runs as fast as possible towards the finish line. He is forced to stop near the river as the finish line is only a few hundred meters across the river. Not knowing how to swim, he can only watch as the tortoise slowly catches up to him and swims across the river and wins the race again.

Leadership Lessons #3:
– Discover your strength zone, or your sweet spot and find a role where you can utilise your strengths to the best of your ability.
– In your organisation, if your strength is in public speaking, grab all opportunities to do presentations.
– If your strength is to analyze, use it to analyze or to carefully scrutinize any data that comes your way.
– Working in your strength zone not only allows you to show your talent, but it also creates atmosphere for you to develop it and to grow.
– If your strength is to organise and to lead, find a role where you can be most effective in leading.

The story enters its final round …

By this time, the tortoise and the hare have become close friends and they are now thinking of the best possible way to run a race.

They both realise that there is an even faster way to complete the previous race. So they decide to host another race. This time, however, they will be running together as a team.

They begin running together where the hare carries the tortoise while running as fast as he could to the bank of the river. They then swap place and the tortoise this time swims across the river while carrying the hare. Finally, after getting across the river, the hare picks up the tortoise again and together they run towards the finish line. They crossed the finish line feeling satisfied as they managed to finish the race with a much shorter finish time.

Leadership Lessons #4:
– Although it is good to be smart and utilising your strengths to your maximum ability, if you are not working in a team where everyone is working together with their own strengths towards a common goal, you won’t have the most optimal outcome. In order to be able to achieve the win effectively and efficiently, there needs to be a synergy between all members of the team.
– Working together in a team requires a leader who is able to assess the situation carefully, and having the ability to make the right decision to assign each team member to their various position while drawing the best out of all of them. Like the hare and the tortoise in the story, placing the right team member to maximise their ability results in the best outcome for their team.

There are various overarching Leadership Lessons from the story:

One thing we should note here is that both the tortoise and the hare did not give up despite their setbacks. Both took time to think about their failure and both overcame their weaknesses with sheer hard work. The hare works even harder after he lost to tortoise. The tortoise, after suffering a loss, changed his strategy because he has always done his best. In life, when we fail, we may be able to overcome our failure by working harder and putting more effort. Other times, it may be better to change gears and use a different strategy to achieve the win. There may even be situations where we have to do both.

Both the hare and the tortoise eventually discover an even more important lesson. When we stop going against our competitor and start competing against our situation, we will be able to overcome any difficult situation together.

In summary, here’s some of the most important lessons from this story:
– Being quick and consistent yields better results than being slow and consistent.
– Aim for the role which complements your strength zone.
– Gather team members with different strengths in order to achieve more.
– Don’t EVER give up when you fail. As John Maxwell said in his book, “Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn”.
– [tweet_quote hashtags=”#leadership #lesson” ]Don’t compete against each other. Instead, compete with each other against your circumstances[/tweet_quote].

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