In 506 A.D., King Clovis wished to create what we would call a nation state among the Frankish speaking people.
To do so, he had to conquer the citadel of Carcassonne in modern southwestern France. His only option was to siege the acropolis to starve the inhabitants into capitulation.
The tactic was working — the 20,000 people crammed into the town were starving. The leader of the citadel, Dame Carcas, commanded her personal bodyguard to lay down their weapons and armor, issued them brooms and baskets and had them sweep the towers that encircled the city.
They started on the top floor and worked to the ground floor, where they picked up all the detritus. Then, as now, rodents consumed as much as half of the stored food, and their effluent remained on the floors in the storage rooms.
The level above ground was where the soldiers lived and cooked. The ground floor contained the stables, until the horses were eaten. This detritus was dumped in a pile and sorted by the bodyguards, with instructions to pick out the rare grains of wheat, barley and so forth and place them in a single bushel basket.
Dame Carcas hand-fed the entire bushel of grain to her pet pig. She had her trumpeters sound at a particular point on the wall, and Clovis and his retinue assembled below that point where a stone abutment jutted out.
She then pushed the pig off the wall, where it hit the abutment and burst all over the assembled nobles below. One of the officers looked at the contents of the pig, which were all over the men, and pointed out that in the citadel, they still had animals, and the animals were being fed a wonderful mixture of grains.
Clovis decided to lift the siege because he concluded it was not working.
In a very real sense, we create our realities by making attributions. This is good and bad. It is bad because we can draw attributions that may be wrong and lead to bad outcomes.
It is good because the world is a highly ambiguous place and leaders, with their influence, can sway reality as they wish, within reason or persuasion. In a very real sense, leaders create realities by controlling attributions.
Lance Kurke is president of Kurke & Associates Inc., a strategic planning and leadership development firm. He serves on the faculties of Duquesne and Carnegie Mellon Universities. Reach him at (412) 916-2525 or at [email protected].