On the occasion of Navroz, we could all learn a lesson or two from Dastur Neryosang Dhaval, the leader of the first group of Zoroastrians that came into India. It all happened in 755 AD in the small Gujarati town called Sanjan. About five hundred Parsi families landed on Indian shores, having fled from Persia. They reached Sanjan, a prosperous little town ruled by a benevolent Hindu king called Jadi Rana. Dastur, the chief of the Parsis, went to the king’s court to request him for refuge. Being somewhat apprehensive of the tall, fair warrior-like tribe and unsure of his little kingdom’s ability to absorb and provide for the immigrants, the king called for a bowl of milk, filled to the brim. He showed it to the Parsi chief, to symbolize the fact that the kingdom was full. There was no room for more people! But Dastur was not to about to give up so easily. He asked one of the attendants to get him some sugar. He took a spoonful of the sugar and mixed it in the bowl, letting it dissolve—signifying that the Zoroastrians would mingle with the people in Sanjan and sweeten their lives. Impressed, the king allowed the Parsis to settle in his kingdom. The rest, as they say, is history.
Several valuable lessons in leadership flow from that bowl of milk and sugar.
First, leaders moving into a new team or organization must remember that, in most cases, the bowl is almost always perceived to be full to the brim.
Second, like the sugar itself, leaders must learn to mingle with the team and be willing to let their identity, and their ego, become subservient to the needs of the team.
Third, it also helps to remember that once the sugar dissolves in the milk, it sweetens the last drop of milk. The sugar’s impact is not confined merely to the drops of milk that come in direct contact with it.
Fourth, it’s most important to understand what’s inside the bowl. Is it milk? Or water? Or soda? Understanding the people and the organization has to be the first step in the leader’s journey.
And finally, once the sugar dissolves in the team, you want people to exclaim how sweet the milk is. Not how good the sugar was.