Hammer Stew

There is an old fable in which a tramp visits a township during a famine. He carries with him a pot and meagre belongings. The hungry villagers hide in their houses and refuse to face the stranger, another potential mouth to feed.

The stranger instead offers to cook a stew for the village. He calls it “hammer stew” and fills the pot with water and places it over a fire to simmer. Soon after he takes his hammer, cleans it and places it in the boiling water. 

One by one the villagers leave their houses to inspect the hammer stew. The tramp nonchalantly mentions the stew is delicious but lacks some parsnip. Next, a timid villager offers up a parsnip. 

Later, the tramp tastes the stew and declares it to be tasty but better with mushroom. Soon, another villager offers up a handful of mushrooms.

axe soup

One by one the villagers are lured out by the smell of brewing food and offer up ingredients: leeks, parsley, potoato, some beef stock, some chicken bones, some onions etc. Before long the tramp had a pot full of delicious stew and begins to feed the hungry villagers. 

The story effectively shows the power of a visionary leader. Leadership is simply casting the vision of a potential outcome, taking the risk of starting and offering up the first resources. By taking this initative, the leader paves the way for others to offer their skills, talents and time without bearing the risk of an enterprise themselves. Their contributions take a project much farther and further than the leader could alone.

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Leadership is filling the pot and lighting the fire and enticing a hungry village to offer up their rations and to create something greater than the sum of its parts. 

Even in famine something delicious is possible! 

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