Compensation and Obligation

A long time ago a king died unexpectedly and his young son ascended to the throne.  Now this young king was rather spoiled  and didn’t quite understand the obligations of being a king.  He spent much of his time enjoying the wealth of his kingdom without giving much thought to his duties.

One day his tutor, who had been with the young boy since birth, asked the new king a question.

“Do you know why you have all this wealth at your fingertips?”

The arrogant young king answered. “It’s my birth right!  I am the son of a king and now I am the king. It all belongs to me.”

The wise old tutor smiled, nodded, then replied.  “You are partly right.  But you won’t remain a king long being only partly right.”

The king jumped up from his throne.  “What kind of heresy is this.  I am king for life!”

“Again, my king, you are partly right.  The question is, will you have a long life or a short one?”

Sobered and slightly humbled by the wise man’s reply, the young king slumped down into his throne.  “Tell me how to have a long life?”

Seeing that he finally had the young man’s full attention, the tutor began to explain the principle of compensation and obligation.

“Wealth and income is a result, not a birth right.  Even for kings.  And, contrary to popular belief, it is not a result of hard work, although that is a part of the story.

Wealth, income and compensation are given by the people you govern in return for your duty to your people.”

The young king couldn’t contain himself. “But the people have a duty to worship and obey me, the king.”

“And they will, your majesty. They will even follow you into the fiercest battles, if you fulfill your obligations to them.”

Hands on his hips, the young king demanded, “And just what is my obligation?”

“Your obligation, as their leader, is to rule in such a manner that your country grows and prospers and your subjects have the opportunity to live up to their potential. “

“And what if some are lazy and don’t want to work hard to develop their potential?”  The young king was both curious and skeptical with this philosophy.

“Even a great king cannot help those who chose not to work or develop themselves.  Your obligation is to provide opportunity, not guarantees or free handouts. And if you do this,  fulfill your obligation of leadership, then people will continue to provide you with the wealth, income and compensation that you deserve. “

Man is paid in direct proportion to the service he renders to mankind!  -William Penn Patrick

For centuries the principle of compensation and obligation was the only way those in public service and publicly traded organizations achieved significant compensation.  That is until Banks-to-Big-To-Fail, Fund Managers, Investment Bankers and CEO Rock Stars came along!

But excessive compensation without obligation has its price.  We are already seeing significant shareholder revolt against excessive compensation.  And the trend is growing.

Before it’s too late we must start educating ourselves and our young people on the principle of compensation and obligation.  We certainly aren’t getting the message from television!

Tight Lines . . .

 John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
This entry was posted in consulting, Human Psychology, John R Childress, John's views on the world, leadership, Life Skills, Organization Behavior, Personal Development, Psychology, Self-improvement, the business of business and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Compensation and Obligation

  1. Sandy says:

    Great story, John. Yes, the difference between “being in power” and “empowering” can be quite dramatic.


    • Sandy says:

      . . . and what a dramatic difference leaders, those who have the authority and the resources, can make by empowering others rather than using them.


  2. It is funny (or maybe not so funny) how fast executive compensation has spiraled out of control. I think we are just starting to see the begining of shareholder revolts (at least I hope so). Great post.


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