A sacred image was being carried to the temple. It was mounted on an Ass adorned with garlands and gorgeous trappings, and a grand procession of priests and pages followed it through the streets. As the Ass walked along, the people bowed their heads reverently or fell on their knees, and the Ass thought the honor was being paid to himself.
With his head full of this foolish idea, he became so puffed up with pride and vanity that he halted and started to bray loudly. But in the midst of his song, his driver guessed what the Ass had got into his head, and began to beat him unmercifully with a stick.
"Go along with you, you stupid Ass," he cried. "The honor is not meant for you but for the image you are carrying."
This little ditty is doubly funny because its meaning is plain enough, but its Old English terminology coincides with a humorous usage of words whose meanings have largely changed since the time of its authorship. In this case that change produces an even more impactful meaning!
As leaders we are given notoriety and recognition, sometimes even perks and benefits - but leadership is not comprised of these things. Nor is anyone a real leader who pursues the position of leadership solely for self aggrandizement and gain. Rather, leadership is for those willing to assume added responsibility and risk, who will often be asked to carry an unfair burden, shoulder the bulk of the load, and take the blame for the failures of others. When things go poorly a leader is expected to step forward and take the heat, guard his followers and play the part of the hero. Conversely, when things are going well a leader must share the glory and deflect the praise, shining light on the people who toil in obscurity. More importantly, however, a leader must understand the source and root of his or her blessings and 'reflect' that glory in the proper direction - upward.
Every breath we take, every second of our lives, every step and every action are granted as gifts from God above. It is by His grace that we live. It is by His grace that we have any ability whatsoever to lead others. The Bible tells us that God made us in His image. Remember the lesson of the stupid Ass, and never forget that the crowds are not really cheering for you at all.
"The honor is not meant for you but for the image you are carrying."
*Source: The Aesop for Children; Scholastic, Inc., 1994