The Law Of The Jungle
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Come, little brothers and sisters, and listen to the song of the dying! For in the jungle, it is said, the death of one career may spell the death of many, so take heed, little cubs, and do not doze through this one, as you sometimes do when the fire grows low and the birds sleep in the trees.

When the hyena dies, it is of little note, except for the other carrion eaters that travel in its reporting structure, for there will be more meat for them and more room at the watering hole.

And when the fat old hippo slips for the last time into the stream and ceases to make bubbles, no one raises a song of hope or mourning, for hippos travel alone and often rack up huge expense tabs that cut into other people's bonuses.

But when a lion begins the long trek to the executive departure lounge, the jungle moves. Trees shake and fall. The cranes stretch out their necks. All the creatures of the forest quiver. They had better, O my brothers and sisters! For when a lion goes into the dark, it presents danger to a lot of innocent lives.

First, children of the pack, you must know that a lion always sees its own career death coming miles away. Your average lion has killed its fair share for a long time and is so full of the knowledge of death that it sees Human Resource professionals with disadvantageous exit packages around every bend in the river.

The lion that has led its own pride for a while also has very good eyesight, and sees all the young cubs growing to maturity, and perceives quite rightly that its function is very expensive for the jungle to maintain, where the young are cheap, full of energy, and perfectly willing to bite it to death when the time is right.

The lion who has fought many battles is also aware, as others are not, of its own weakness. It feels a tiredness in its bones, a desire for sleep in the late morning, a yearning to lie under a tree in the afternoon and let others do the hunting, an urge to visit the watering hole a little too early in the day. Sometimes its head hurts, and it looks toward the mountains, where a lion may roam free without having to take a lot of meetings and deal with all the obnoxious animals of the forest, which includes elephants, tigers, other animals it regards as nothing more than walking meat, and also lions from other jungles who can really be a pain in the tail.

At any rate--wake up, foolish cubs!--this knowledge of impending doom does not make the lion happy. It makes the lion very grouchy. And a grouchy lion is a dangerous animal indeed.

In its fear and grumpiness, the lion may look around for those loyal to its reign. This is the most dangerous time, O my little ones! As the sickly, paranoid cat sniffs about for proof of love, you may be drawn into its shadow, pulled close at a time when it can do you no good. The lion may call on you to take steps against its enemies, animals that will turn out to be necessary to you later on.

I am reminded of a dying lion I know, let's call him Sturgess. As he approached the moment of truth in his career, he gathered a young one to him and said, "I am having my staff meeting the same time as Armbruster. You'll be attending mine, of course." But the little one was smart and smelled the fear on Sturgess, and guessed that the older cat might not be around to protect him later on. So he "forgot" about the Sturgess staff meeting and attended the one scheduled by Armbruster. The older lion was enraged and felt estranged from the younger, and that was fine too. The little cub, by the way, has grown into a full-fledged mini-lion and today is free to prowl a big section of turf mauling life forms weaker than himself.

But beware, oh, beware, my little friends, as you dance carefully away from the crippled, lame beast! For the creature still has teeth. It sits in councils in which it may do you harm--and as it feels the hot breath of its demise, it will flail about, slashing, snapping at the air, hiring consultants to build up its image in the press, initiating demented projects that cost a lot of money and kill those associated with them later on, sowing discord in the pride, and generally making everybody nervous and crazy.

What you are witnessing here is the time of ending, little sproutlings, and it is as inevitable in the career of lions as it is in those of smaller, less well compensated animals. At last, exhausted and drained of access to the media, the great cat will crawl away to a lush, quiet corner of the jungle to meet its fate. You may see it off someplace, wandering about, roaring occasionally, obsessively cleaning itself, moaning a little, perhaps, for anybody who is willing to hang about and hear.

And that, fellow members of the pack, is the time when it is finally safe to approach the lion and offer it something tasty to eat and perhaps a drink or two. Do not hesitate to do so. The drama is over. Kindness is never out of place. And in the end, sometimes a lion is only human, brothers and sisters.

By day, Stanley Bing is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name. He can be reached at