Everybody loves stories. Let me tell you a story:
Once upon a time there was the Ruler of a vast country through which flowed a great river. The great river was the lifeblood of the economy of the country and of the health and the well-being of its people. The river gave all the people water to drink and wash; it gave them fish to eat; it gave them coolness in the scorching heat of summer and it gave them transport throughout the land.
Every day the Ruler, fully aware of the importance of the river and responsibly concerned for the well-being of the country’s people, would look from the terraces of the palace and wonder where the river, the wealth of the country, came from. The Ruler knew that if the river ever failed the country and its people would die. The Ruler’s mind thus became very burdened with needing to know where the source of the river, the true life-sustaining wealth of the country, was to be found, and if that wealth could ever be extinguished.
To solve this essential question the Ruler decided to gather together the best, most important, most highly-educated, most astronomically-qualified scientific experts to be found in the country and to send them, as a party of explorers to find the source of the great river, an expedition to discover the source of the country’s true wealth, of its prosperity and of the peoples’ happiness.
The Ruler, giving the explorers their orders, told them that in order to serve the everyday needs of this necessary expedition they would be accompanied by the palace’s most trusted servant, an old, unassuming, uneducated and hard-working man named Leo.
The explorers, the best, most important, most highly-educated, most astronomically-qualified scientific experts to be found in the country, thanked the Ruler for the honour of having been given this mission. However, they had one question: ‘Who, exactly, was to be the leader of the expedition?’
The Ruler said, “You’re all very clever and I’m very busy! Leader? You work it out for yourselves!”
The party prepared to venture out. The very important scientists, now out of earshot of the Ruler, constantly bickered amongst themselves about which of them was the most important scientist and who therefore must be the natural leader of the mission.
As they squabbled about their leadership status, all of them academically angry, they demonstrated their individual superiority in the group by slinging ever-more demanding, peremptory orders at Leo to fetch such-and-such immediately; and to carry such-and-such, again immediately; and to pack such-and-such, even more immediately, their very important scientific equipment, their very important tents, their very important horses, their very important clothes, their very important books and their very important supplies.
Every one of the scientists demanded that, as leader, his orders must be obeyed before the orders of the other less important scientists. This old man, Leo, the good servant, ever compliant, never complaining, obeyed without question. A servant is never allowed to question the impossible.
The exploration party, secure in the comforts of their own importance and served by Leo, thus set out to determine the unknown mystery of the source of the country’s great river.
Farther and farther into their quest they travelled. Every day of the journey Leo, walking behind the party, he not being important enough to be given a horse, would fetch and carry — always immediately — whatever such-and-such the great scientists demanded.
All the while he listened quietly to their incessant arguments about which of them was the actual leader of the expedition. Leo had no opinion on this obviously significant question: what did he know about such things? Leo, the good servant, just did without question whatever he was ordered to do.
Every evening Leo would unload and set up the great scientists’ tents, make their beds, wash their clothes, make them a fire, prepare their food, wash their dishes and wash and feed and groom their horses. He loved the horses and they loved him. Leo, not important enough to be assigned a tent, would every night sleep on the ground near the horses.
When the scientists awakened Leo’s day of being ordered about would begin. Every morning of the very important journey, while it was not yet light, Leo would begin his daily chores of laying out clean clothes for the scientists, of fetching water, of preparing food and of preparing to strike and load the camp.
From one important scientist: “Leo! My breakfast! Now! Me first, you lazy fool! Do you expect me to lead on an empty stomach?”
From another important scientist: “Leo! Never mind that self-deluded halfwit! Don’t you understand that I’m the leader here! Me! Strike my tent first! Do it now! You really are useless, Leo! Idiot!”
From yet another important scientist: “Leo! Know your place! Why haven’t you heated the water for my shave[JM1] ? Don’t you understand that I, the leader of this party and therefore the most important, must always present a leader’s flawless appearance?”
And so it went on every day. “Leo! What’s wrong with you now?” “Leo! A little effort now and again wouldn’t hurt you, would it?” “Leo! Now! You lazy fool…”
And, even in the face of such haughty ingratitude, Leo, the good self-effacing servant, would do his best to follow the important scientists’ demands and would always do so without any resentment for their imperious behaviour. After all this was the job that had been entrusted to him by the Ruler of his country.
Every day the scientists still argued, always academically, about whom was the true leader of the expedition. Every one of them, being too importantly civilised to take out their individual status-frustrations on each other, transferred the demands of their personal anger at poor, unimportant, insignificant Leo.
Deeper and deeper the party followed the river’s course as it wandered through the forests from the mountains ahead. There were cliffs to climb, waterfalls to traverse, hungry animals and insects to avoid. Even though the expedition had become more dangerous and difficult than the explorers had expected they still they argued about who was the leader.
When eventually the food supplies started to run out the scientists ordered Leo to find food. And to do it now!
Leo, the good servant, somehow worked out a solution to the scientists’ problem and found food for them. His thanks was to be told to hurry it up in future.
When the horses died they ordered Leo to find horses for them. And to do it now! “Oh! And look after these horses better than the ones you worked to death!”
Leo, the good servant, found no horses but somehow worked out a solution to the scientists’ problem and built for himself a sled upon which he would drag their equipment. His thanks was to be told to move faster in future; that he was holding up the expedition.
When the tents rotted away they ordered Leo to find materials to make comfortable shelters and soft bedding for them. And to do it now!
Leo, the good servant, somehow worked out a solution to the scientists’ problem and found, gathered and formed materials to make comfortable shelters and soft bedding. His thanks was to be told to put more effort into making even more comfortable shelters and even softer bedding in future.
When the scientists started to become sick they ordered Leo to find medicine. And to do it now!
Leo, the good servant, somehow worked out a solution to the scientists’ problem… but he too, now old and overworked, had become sick. Still obeying orders Leo could no longer continue. He collapsed on the mountainside and died.
The important scientists, searching to berate and punish Leo both for ignoring their immediate medical demands and also for not having prepared their dinner before wandering off, eventually found Leo.
Silently they stared down at Leo’s body.
Eventually one of them said, “Typical bloody Leo! Does nothing useful and just when you need him he lets you down! Again! As the leader of this expedition I think that this useless, lazy fool actually held us back!”
Another, standing over Leo’s corpse, said, “Look! See sense, man! We all know that you’re not the leader! I am! Obviously! But in this instance I am regretfully forced to agree with a follower like you. This Leo, this worthless, incompetent, illiterate layabout that the Ruler foisted upon us certainly held us back! We’ll be better off without him.”
“Indeed”, said the first speaker. “The world would be better off without his sort!”
The party, forgetting Leo but still quarrelling about which of them was the leader, walked away. They didn’t even have the decency to bury poor Leo, the good servant.
Without Leo’s service the expedition failed. The sickness that had killed Leo killed off most of the other scientists. Those scientists who had not been infected abandoned their mission; they followed the course of the great river and fled back down the mountains.
In the mountains and the river valley’s forests these self-proclaimed leaders lost their way. Without Leo’s selfless dedication to feeding them, to protecting them and to caring unquestioningly for their every needs they, the best, most important, most highly-educated, most astronomically-qualified scientific experts to be found in the country found themselves unable to fend for themselves in that same country and so lost they too their lives.
To their dying breaths they blamed Leo for the shameful failure of the expedition. They had never found their source — in any sense of that word. The truth is that without Leo, the good servant and therefore the unrecognised, true leader of the expedition to lead them they were always going to be lost.
Leo, poor, illiterate, patient, uncomplaining and unassuming Leo, knew something that the scientists had never realised: that to lead it is necessary to serve: that in any human enterprise to serve is to lead.
And that is the story of Leo, the good servant.
So what’s this got to do with MediLiVes?
MediLiVes is a telemedical healthcare company the aim of which is to be the market leader in the market of healthcare leadership. One of the major functions of leadership is to care for those who are not in a position to care for themselves or others; and to do so until they themselves have learned how to lead others to do likewise.
MediLiVes is not a vertical model of leadership: you know the sort of thing: the usual corporate Big-Daddy boss at the top driving a gear-chain of industrious meat-cogs to work to satisfy Big-Daddy. MediLiVes is a community of determined companions engaged in and dedicated to the purpose of serving the healthcare needs of countless of our fellow human beings.
Leaders make people feel safe by their power of their example, by the stance of their leadership. It’s an educational function. The English word ‘education’ derives from a Latin word ‘educare’; it means ‘to draw out’. If you wish to be a leader who ‘draws out’ the best in people is it not axiomatic that to do so you must first draw out and, most importantly, be seen to have drawn out the best in yourself?
That’s what this company of communicative companions, MediLiVes, to be leaders in service to healthcare companionship is pledged to do.
John McKay, Chief Operating Officer,MediLiVes