This story is targetted at a group of managers who are adept at distancing themselves from the real challenges of the business environment, who treat everything as an interesting intellectual challenge. This story is meant to engage the emotional responses, to provoke debate about what kindsof behaviours we might have to deal with, and what kind of behaviours we will give ourselves permission to adopt.


Stanley was powerful. Stanley had newspapers, he had TV stations, he had politicians, he hadmoney. Some people quietly suspected that he had in fact got the whole world, neatly wrapped upin a secret web of controlling interests. What Stanley wanted, Stanley got. Powers spiritual andtemporal were at his command. When he said " Jump ", the response was invariably " How high ?".

When nationality laws had threatened to prevent his takeover of a country's media, the entirecountry had changed nationality to oblige him. When parties he did not support won electionsthere would generally be a recount. Kings and Queens courted him assiduously, and those whodid not soon risked Republicanism. Republics in which he was unwelcome were sure to find aresurgence of Monarchism. Monetarists were anxious to be in his debt, and socialists were eagerto contribute to his causes.

Stanley was versatile. In Islamic states he was admired as a stern, upright and virtuoustraditionalist. In poor third world areas he was extolled as a benign paternalist, a family man ofvision and charity. To the former communist states he was a reforming technocrat, a meritocratand moderniser. In western eyes he was a go-getting capitalist, a hard-living king of the deal.

Stanley, the man, was an unknown quantity with whom everyone was familiar. Never out of thegossip columns, not a hint of scandal had ever been breathed about him. The obscurity of hisbeginnings was only enhanced by the number and detail of his biographies. He had indeed risenwithout trace, creating not a single enemy nor an identifiable friend. No one could remember atime when he had not dominated the economic scene, yet all were excited by his meteoric rise.

In short, Stanley was the very epitome of success. A man with the touch of a modern Midas.Everything he did was right, or would soon become so. Even his failures would be judgedtriumphs in a lesser man.

So Stanley had a lot of things, but not a friend. He had , of course, any number of admirers,courtiers, hangers-on and cheerleaders, but not a friend. The nearest thing to a true friend was hisoldest business associate. Phil had been around the great man long enough, and had been used byhim often enough, to understand the single-minded and totally self-centred enigma. Or so hethought.

The business legends were beginning to feel their age, and Phil in particular was starting to wishfor a gentler, less driven time. After much effort and long persuasion he managed to sell the ideaof a break to the workaholic Stanley. They settled on a safari holiday to an African gamereserve. It was hardly a backpacker's delight, what with the five star accommodation, completewith en-suite jaccuzzi, but it was at least a break.

Each morning the pair would rise early, to exercise before the heat became too intense. Theywould stroll around the waterhole to a flat area where they could jog a mile or two. On the waythey could survey the magnificence of their surroundings and spot the local wildlife.

On this particular morning the waterhole was eerily quiet. If either man was conscious of anything untoward, their behaviour betrayed no sign. As usual their conversation strayed onlyrarely from the exigencies of some deal or other, fuelled by their dawn business updates providedby satellite link from London and New York. Both were instantaneously moved to silence,however, by the appearance on the path before them of an alert and interested lioness.

Deals in the city, and boardroom manoevres were no preparation for the sheer bowel-quiveringshock of that moment. Both had immediate visions of nature, their red in her tooth and claw. Noappeal to stockholders, no bribes, no graft, no discounts. Nothing could save them, only theirnative wit and their natural instincts for survival. The lithe and terrifying big cat was clearly intenton grievous bodily harm.

Phil was drained, but the first to speak, realistically assessing the odds. " Well old son, looks likethe end for us. " But Stanley did not answer. Slowly Phil turned to look at his old mentor.Incredibly he saw that Stanley was stealthily removing his sneakers and ever so gently putting onhis running shoes.

Half hysterical with fright and wonder Phil giggled out of the side of his mouth " I don't think youcan out-run a flaming hungry lion, you crazy fool ! ". Their eyes met. Phil was immediately aware of a cold, hard, calculation behind the almost-opaque blue of his companion's stare. He hadseen that look many times before, the look of the fighter, the survivor, Stanley the winner.Without blinking, without a trace of emotion, Stanley replied " I don't need to out-run the lion. Ijust have to out-run you ".

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Last updated 11 December 2002 by COLIN J TIERNEY