Accountable or Responsible

What we don’t let go, we carry as a burden. A few weeks back, I was at cross roads of my career, especially that as a leader. While a couple of seductive options (materially) laid bare before me, it was a painstaking to take a call on the way forward. One evening on my regular journey in the e-World, I chanced about my favorite  “The Fable of the Bridge” by Rabbi Friedman that threw gave me a whole lot of lessons as well as direction to the path I should take. (Received via Yahoo group mail – yes it was very popular those days) Read on…. (reproducing it for the benefit of those who haven’t read it before)

It is a moonlit night and alone in his thoughts he starts crossing a bridge. The man sees out of the corner of his eye a stranger dressed much like himself coming towards him. He thinks the man approaching is putting his hand out to greet him. However, the stranger has the end of a rope in his hand with the other end entwined around him.

The stranger asks the man to hold the end of the rope. Whilst perplexed the man complies.

The stranger asks the man to hold on tight with two hands and then promptly jumps off the bridge toward the swift running deep river below. “Hold on” the stranger cries. The free-falling body hurtled the distance of the rope’s length, and from the bridge the man abruptly felt the pull. He held tight despite being almost pulled over the side of the bridge.

Peering down at the stranger who was close to oblivion, the man yelled, “What are you trying to do?”

“Just hold tight,” said the other.

The man tried to haul the stranger in but he could not. He could not get enough leverage. His strength was almost perfectly counterbalanced by the other man’s weight.

“Why did you do this?” the man called out. “Remember,” said the other, “if you let go, I will be lost.” “But I cannot pull you up,” the man cried. “I am your responsibility,” said the other. “Well, I did not ask for it,” the man said. “If you let go, I am lost,” repeated the other.

The man looked around for help, tried to invent solutions but could not think of any that would work. He waited for someone to come and help pull the stranger up, but no one came. Fearing that his arms could not hold out much longer, he tied the rope around his waist.

“Why did you do this?” he asked again. “Don’t you see what you have done? What possible purpose could you have had in mind?” “Just remember,” said the other, “my life is in your hands.”

Time passed and a decision needed to be made. The man could not hold on much longer.

A thought occurred to him. If the stranger hauled himself up and he kept the end steady and pulled a bit, together they could get the stranger back to safety. But the other wasn’t interested.

“You mean you won’t help? But I told you I cannot pull you up myself, and I don’t think I can hang on much longer either.” “You must try,” the other shouted back in tears. “If you fail, I die.” The point of decision arrived. The man said to the other, “Listen to me. I will not accept the position of choice for your life, only for my own; the position of choice for your own life, I hereby give back to you.”

“What do you mean?” the other asked, afraid. “I mean, simply, it’s up to you. You decide which way this ends. I will help you if you help yourself.”

“You cannot mean what you say,” the other shrieked. “You would not be so selfish. I am your responsibility. What could be so important that you would let someone die? Do not do this to me.”

He waited a moment. There was no change i the tension of the rope. “I accept your choice,” the man said, at last, and freed his hands.

This was the Eureka Moment for me too. I was clinging on to something that I should have let go. There was no way I could lead or help others by doing things for them. I realized that while I am accountable for others, I was not responsible for them.

unlocking-power-accountability-employees

Definitely it was not for me to be tied up like this man in the fable to others’ needs and happiness alone. It was about choices and not perfection of the solutions. I had to take a call and make my choice. It wasn’t easy to let go of something that was a passion for many months – a shared passion with the team. And Lo!

I found the solution again. What was I clinging on to? Was in a role – did the best and move on.

A man was running for his life to escape a hungry tiger.
He came to the edge of a cliff, stepped over and held onto a vine. The tiger couldn’t reach him, but there was no way up again.
Looking down he saw another tiger at the bottom waiting for him to let go and fall.
A rat appeared and began gnawing at the vine.
The man noticed a strawberry growing on the face of the cliff.
He held the vine with one hand and with the other grabbed the strawberry and ate it. How sweet it tasted!

The choices that were offered by life was too sweet to be missed anymore. Decision was clear and action too – I MOVED ON. No sense of doership or ownership, just like the flowing water below the bridge. Instruments in place for carrying out the bidding of the Divine. Enjoyed the journey, met a lot of co-passengers – most of them friends for life.

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