November/December 2019

Taking the Lead

Are You Touching the Entire Elephant?

Linda Klein & John Hinton IV

Most of us are familiar with the story of the blind people and the elephant. A group of blind people comes across an elephant for the first time. Each tries to understand the elephant based on the body part touched. The limitations caused by their blindness lead them to differing conclusions about what an elephant is. The one touching an ear perceives a fan. The one touching the trunk perceives a snake. The one touching a leg perceives a tree trunk. Each observation has an element of truth, but none of them can paint the entire picture.

The fable teaches a number of timeless truths, such as the limitations of our ability to understand the world through our own knowledge, disagreements that can arise from that fact and the need for humility as we recognize this weakness in ourselves. Might this parable have some applications for you and your colleagues? We think so. As a leader in your law firm, you cannot afford to reduce the knowledge of your elephant (i.e., your law firm) to a single part or, for that matter, a few parts. You need to see and understand the entire animal.

Touching the Entire Elephant

Who among the blind people would you talk with to understand the elephant? The one that you have known the longest? The one you thought was the smartest? The one whose values were most aligned with yours? None of those choices would result in you understanding the elephant. You must talk to all of them to get the complete picture. 

Premium Content For:
  • Law Practice Division
Join - Now