|Abbot Phra Acharn Phusit Khantitharo (Source)|
What would you do if you were given a diagnosis of terminal leukemia? Phra Acharn chose to become a monk and walk the roads of Thailand, journeying from monastery to monastery. Along the way he eradicated his fear of death (and apparently his leukemia) and any feelings of fear from wild animals. He settled in a forest monastery known as The Tiger Temple.
As the narrator tells it: "Phra Acharn is not an animal trainer, he has no relevant education but nevertheless he bridles adult tigers and directs them without chains and cages, without any power." What sort of leader is capable of taking in tigers and not trying to domesticate or assert his will over the tigers but whose ultimate goal is to create Tiger Island--a place where the endangered tigers may live freely, naturally?
As Acharn tells it: "Every single tiger is special. Each one has feelings, thoughts and dreams. These tigers are not here by chance, they came to me looking for protection. Now I am responsible for them." Indeed the story told in The Tiger and The Monk is one where leadership dives to deeper and more complicated levels. Monks are forbidden to work for money and even beg for their food yet the the tigers must be fed and cared for. The tigers are most noticed at the monastery but the temple has also become a self-formed sanctuary started by old, injured animals that showed up. Wild boars, peacocks, deer, water buffalo and horses have formed a "strange community" under the protection of the monastery walls. The abbot and his monks daily walk the tigers on leashes or merely with a hand on the back through this animal sanctuary. It seems unbelievable when one holds a paradigm that leaders cannot manage by peaceful means; however it also seems the most harmonious means of leadership are indeed through peaceful, attentive loving kindness.
|Collaborative Leadership Relationship (Source)|