The Frog, Log, Stork, and Fork
By Ed Delph
January 24, 2022
It seems like the whole world is like a simmering pan on a stove. One wonders when it’s going to boil over. Everywhere I travel, many people feel used or even deceived by leaders or bureaucracies in every sector of society. It reminds me of a story by comedian Jackie Mason. “My grandfather always said, ‘Don’t watch your money; watch your health.’ So, while I was watching my health, someone stole my money. It was my grandfather.”
Aesop tells the story of the frogs who wanted a king. They annoyed Jupiter with their request until he finally tossed a log into the pond. After that, the frogs were happy with their new leader for a while.
Soon, however, they discovered that they could jump up and down on their leader and run all over him. He offered no resistance and gave no response. Instead, he merely floated back and forth on the pond, a practice that finally exasperated the frogs who were sincere about wanting “strong leadership.”
So back to Jupiter, they went, complaining about their log leader and appealing for much stronger administrative oversight. But, again, Jupiter was weary of the tiresome frogs, so he gave them a stork that stood tall above the group members. He certainly had the appearance of a leader.
The frogs were quite happy with the new situation. Their leader stalked around the pond making impressive noises and attracting significant attention. However, their joy turned to sorrow and then to panic when very soon the stork began eating his subjects. Do you see that? The “We want a king” frogs didn’t perish from their mistakes but by their mistakes. Lesson: Never be impressed by stork social media or a stork's rhetoric; watch what they do.
Today, it seems some leaders have opted for a self-first, society-second way of leading. When that happens, personal character, truth, and servanthood are often sacrificed at the altar of winning, controlling, and staying in power. That’s a bad sign. Why? Absolute power eventually corrupts absolutely 99.9% of the time. It’s getting scary when the weatherperson is the closest to telling the truth on the news.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, “Civilization is always in danger when those who have never learned how to obey are given the right to command.” In other words, if you feel too big for little things, it’s probably an indicator that you are too little for big things. A wise man once said this about leaders, "Be careful who you let on your ship because some people will sink the whole ship just because they can’t be the captain.”
Of course, the majority populace eventually gets the leaders they deserve, vote for, buy from, or listen to. But as Alfred Adler, the Austrian founder of the school of individual psychology, said, “It is easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them.” This observation might easily apply to many famous leaders or culture influencers of today’s ‘do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do’ ilk. Just because you're up in the air and harping on something doesn’t mean you’re an angel.
The frustration for most people is overwhelming, and the consequences are often severe for the storks, logs, and frogs. The storks get blinded by their light and the light of their agenda. The frogs become stork fodder, providing nourishment to the storks, only making matters worse. And the logs sit there, doing nothing, letting the storks walk all over them, hoping they won’t be the stork’s toilet. Then, sooner or later, but inevitably, the storks run out of frogs to provide sustenance for their stork-driven projects or companies.
But wait, here’s some good news, there’s another leader option. I say to us frogs, let’s quit swinging back and forth between log and stork leaders. The Scriptures enlighten us about good leadership. “Kings like to throw their weight around, and people in authority like to give themselves fancy titles. It’s not going to be that way for you (disciples). Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act the part of a servant.” A good leader motivates, doesn’t mislead, and doesn’t exploit.
Intriguingly, the word ‘leader’ is mentioned only six times in the Bible. The word servant is mentioned 900 times. So why do we have so many leadership conferences? Educator and motivational speaker Steve Ventura said, “If there’s any concept that’s synonymous with leadership, it's responsibility.” We should note leaders who want the authority and privileges of leadership without leadership responsibility. A leader’s gift is for others and flows to others for everyone’s benefit.
Good leaders don't gather for themselves; they serve others without agendas, lies, earmarks, and e-mail attachments. Authentic leadership takes personal integrity and selfless servanthood. Coach John Wooden says, "Be more concerned with your character more than your reputation; character is who you are, but your reputation is merely what people think of you.” Reputation is built in a moment; character is built in a lifetime.
You might be thinking, ‘Ed, you are bringing Jesus into leadership again. Do I need Jesus’ stuff?’ Dude, in today’s world, you need Jesus just to go to Walmart.
Here’s your takeaway. “When right-living people (leaders) bless the city, it flourishes; evil talk from wrong-living people (leaders) turns it into a ghost town in no time.” Proverbs 11:11. Doesn't that ghost town sound like Aesop’s frogless pond?
There’s some common sense for you about leadership in today’s world. Use your horse sense, it leads to stable thinking.
Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com