I want to share a charming message first told by Professor Wangari Maathai, Kenyan environmentalist activist, women’s right advocate and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. This is the hummingbird story.
One day a terrible fire broke out in a forest – a huge woodlands was suddenly engulfed by a raging wild fire. Frightened, all the animals fled their homes and ran out of the forest.
As they came to the edge of a stream, they stopped to watch the fire and were feeling very discouraged and powerless. Each one of them thought there was nothing they could do about the fire, except for one little hummingbird.
This hummingbird swooped into the stream and picked up a few drops of water and went into the forest and put each drop of water on the fire; it went back and forth, again and again and again.
All the other animals watched in disbelief, some tried to discourage the hummingbird with comments like “Don’t bother”, “It is too much”, “You are too little”, “Your wings will burn”, “Your beak is too tiny, it’s only a few drops of water – you can’t put this fire out.”
As the hummingbird noticed how hopeless the other animals looked, one of the animals shouted out and challenged the hummingbird in a mocking voice asking, “How do YOU think you are going to help?”
And without hesitation or losing a beat, the hummingbird looked back and said, “I am doing the best I can!”
To me, this story has a simple message. Cultivating personal leadership is a challenge and we all exert great energy to keep things going (just like the hummingbird). Personal leadership is about managing oneself through reflection and as the hummingbird evolves, leadership also progresses by our participation and personal empowerment applied to any challenge.
How are you cultivating personal leadership?