The Millennial VP and the Coach

Once upon a time, there was a Millennial VP who believed in all things but three. He did not believe in engagement, he did not believe in purpose, he did not believe in servant leadership. His father, the CEO, told him that such things did not exist. As there was no engagement or purpose in his father’s business, and no sign of enlightened leadership, the Millennial VP believed his father.

But then, one day, the prince ran away and joined another company. There, to his astonishment, on every floor he sensed purpose, and driven by that purpose, strange and troubling as they seemed to him, were enthusiastic employees who openly exhibited a behavioral property which he dared not name. As he was looking for the catch, he met a man in a white shirt under neat coveralls watching the production floor from a staircase landing.

“Do you really have a purpose working here?” asked the Millennial VP.

“Of course we do,” said the man in neat coveralls.

“Do you really have a purpose working here?”
“Of course we do,” said the man in neat coveralls.

“And those strange and troubling people, are they … engaged?”

“They are all genuinely and authentically engaged.”

“Then you also must have a Servant Leader!” cried the Millennial VP.

“Thanks for the good words,” replied the man in neat coveralls, with a bow, “I am the General Manager here.”

The Millennial VP returned home as quickly as he could.

“So, you are back,” said his father, the CEO.

“I have seen employee engagement, driven by a genuine purpose and inspired by Servant Leader,” said the Millennial VP reproachfully.

The CEO was unmoved.

“Neither real engagement, nor real purpose, nor real servant leadership exist.”

“Neither real engagement, nor real purpose, nor real servant leadership exist.”

“I saw them!”

“Tell me how their Leader was dressed.”

“Their Leader was in neat coveralls over a white shirt.”

“Were the sleeves of his coveralls rolled up?”

The Millennial VP remembered that they had been. The CEO smiled.

“That is the uniform of a coach working on site. They hired a coach who is expected to take them ‘from good to great’ with his tricks. You have been deceived.”

At this, the Millennial VP returned to the friend’s company and went to the same staircase landing, where once again he came upon the man in neat coveralls.

“My father, the CEO, has told me who you are,” said the Millennial VP indignantly. “You deceived me last time, but not again. Now I know that those are not real purpose and real engagement, because you are just a coach.”

The man on the staircase landing smiled.

“You are right, I am a coach. But it is you who are deceived, my boy. In your father’s business, there is a good purpose and tons of engagement. But under your father’s leadership, you can never experience them.”

The Millennial VP pensively returned home. When he saw his father, he looked him in the eyes.

“Father, is it true that you are not a real CEO if you are not a coach?”

The CEO smiled and rolled down his sleeves.

“Yes, my son, that’s what some schmucks say, but I’m not a coach.”

“Then the man on the staircase landing was Servant Leader.”

“The man in the staircase landing was another schmuck.”

“I must know the truth, the truth beyond your invectives.”

“There is no truth beyond my invectives,” said the CEO.

“There is no truth beyond my invectives,” said the CEO.

The Millennial VP was full of sadness. He said, “Look for another successor. I’d rather work 8-to-5 for someone else.”

The CEO called a headhunter and caused Steady Job to appear. Steady Job stood in the door and beckoned to the Millennial VP. The Millennial VP shuddered. He remembered the sense of idealistic but noble purpose and unbelievable but true engagement.

“Very well,” he said, “I’ll take it over.”

“It looks, my son,” said the CEO, “that you too now begin to be a coach.”


Inspired by a fairy story from “The Magus” by John Fowles