The sun and the wind – a lesson for United Airlines

Aesop tells the story of the sun and the wind who were arguing one day about who was stronger. Neither would give way, but after a while they saw a traveller coming along the road. They agreed to settle the matter by having a contest: to see which of them could get the traveller to take off his hat.

At first the wind blew strongly and the sky went dark as clouds covered the sky. But the harder the wind blew, and the more the rain pelted down, the more tightly the traveller held his hat to his head.

Eventually the wind grew exhausted, the clouds rolled back, and the sun beamed down. At first the traveller enjoyed the gentle warmth, especially after the chill of the storm. But the more the sun shone, gently, gently, the hotter the traveller became until suddenly he stopped to take off both his hat and his coat, then continued on his way.

Our news and social media are filled at the moment with the story of the passenger who was forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight. When nobody accepted the airline’s offer of $800 to switch to a later flight, United decided to use force.

The airline would have done well to remember Aesop’s ancient wisdom: that inspiration and kindness are a better way to get people to change than force.

Clearly in this situation, money didn’t create much inspiration. But other things might have done, and probably cost less.

Given the airline’s urgent need to get four passengers to give up their seats, what would you have done?

Inner Leadership is a seven step methodology for creating inspiration during times of change.

Photo By Denkrahm via

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