The Sage of all times!

In the heavenly world where the spirits live, a Sage and a CEO met at a social gathering. They soon got into a conversation about their lives and what they did while on Mother Earth.

Here is how the conversation played out:

Sage: Namaste, what brings you to heaven?

CEO: Well, I died 2 years ago while on Earth. I was a top performer and a high achiever. I did very well in life, grew to be a CEO of an MNC at young age. I grew the companies’ its revenue by 3x and profitability by 5x. Over the 4 years I led the company as a CEO, we never missed revenue or profit even a single quarter.

Sage: Wow, that is some achievement.

CEO: Yes it is. The investors you know are very unforgiving. They demand results each quarter and I was the only one in the history of the company to ever meet revenue & profit goals 16 quarters in a row. I got great bonuses and RSUs for all I did. The stock price of the company went up 500% and was quoted by the media as one of the fastest growing companies in the world.

Sage: That sounds like a great story. You had a good run while on Earth. But, what brought you here?

CEO: My achievements what else? I think death was to come one day, it came while I was young. But, God chose me to come to heaven because I achieved a lot, I was a high achiever you know! My execution capability was flawless. I was always ahead of the game viz. others’. My bosses always knew they could bet on me. At the end of the day it all about “execution”, what do you say?

Sage: hmm…, interesting.

CEO: OK, what was your profession while on earth?

Sage: I was a human enabler.

CEO: Oh, ok what does that mean?

Sage: I helped people by enabling them to recognize their qualities within themselves. I helped them recognize their potential and realize it.

CEO: What the heck does that mean? I don’t get it. All this soft stuff, it is meaningless. I had a bunch of people who worked for me. I knew how to get the work done. I set high standards, stretch goals, threw tons of money and ensured they achieved them. If they didn’t I fired them. It worked well. They may have hated me for being a hard taskmaster, but they earned a good bonus too. So, why complain. What is all this enabling potential etc. all about. It is not measureable? My achievements are tangible — revenue, profits, stock price, etc. you see!

Sage: Smiled…, you are right. You have achieved a lot and so did your teams. Tell me, what does your instinct tell you about — How the teams you led in your company think of you now that you are gone for last 2 years?”

CEO: I think they must be missing me. I was the best! They achieved a lot because of me? I led them and kicked them hard to give their best. They must be thinking that they worked with the best CEO ever.

Sage: hmm…

CEO: Ok, you said you were a human enabler. So what do you think the people you helped enable think of you, now that you have been gone last 10 years?

Sage: I don’t know. How about taking a ride to Earth and checking out.

CEO: Wow, that is a great idea. Lets go right now.

The Sage and the CEO land on Earth on a “spiritual aircraft”. They have divine powers to see what’s going on with (a) the company the CEO ran and (b) the people the Sage helped enable.

CEO’s company:

There was a new business leader, chasing revised targets. While the company was floundering, it was missing targets 3 quarters in a row. Many folks on the late CEO’s team were still there, struggling to meet their goals. They were blaming the current unstable state of affairs in the company upon the late CEO for his short sighted decisions, inability to see beyond a quarter, do things to meet his own desire for high achievement and not invest enough on people or systems or technology to build a strong organization for the future.

The late CEO watching from his “spiritual aircraft” was upset hearing people talk ill of him after he was gone:

CEO: What kind of people are these? They are accusing me behind my back. They had no guts to raise their heads when I was the CEO. Look at them now. Ungrateful creatures!

The Sage’s Ashram:

The sage’s followers formed a trust, created scriptures around the preaching and work of the Sage. They propagated their learning to others and enlisted more people to embrace his teachings. The Sage had followers from all walks of life, young & old — professionals, bureaucrats, etc. People came to discover themselves, recognize their potential and were very successful in what ever they did. They spoke of the Sage and his work with respect & honor. The Sage’s name continued to thrive & grow even 10 years after his death.

As the Sage saw this, he just smiled and prayed that the progress continue.

CEO: How fair is this? I achieved so much, but I am not even remembered. Even if I am being thought of, it is in poor light. However, you are being worshiped even 10 years after your death.


The “tangibles” that we achieve in life may wither away over time. However, the “intangibles” like the discovery of our self & our virtues will remain with us forever.

The question is not whether one has to aspire to be a CEO or a Sage? The real question is if the CEO had discovered the Sage within him, how would have the world remembered the CEO?

Why am I sharing these thoughts with you? The role of a leader is to act like a Sage to enable people to discover themselves and their true potential. When the leader is gone, he would have created 100’s of such leaders around him and thus a great company.

If we keep focusing on the “tangibles” alone, they are most likely to disappear over time. The “intangible” will however remain forever.

Merely aspiring to create a great company is not enough. Our thinking, feeling & actions should reflect in enabling the potential of people around us. This would be possible only if we start acting like the Sage by enabling people to discover their latent capability and help them bring it to the forefront of their own thinking. That to me is the role of true leader!

Do you wish to be true leader? If so, have you discovered the Sage within yourself?

PGC is a boutique Management Consulting firm engaged in the business of enabling its clients to transform their Org, Culture & Capabilities.