Leadership: Seeing The Big Picture: The Story of The Three Stonecutters

What leadership quality would be at the top of your list? For me, I would say the ability to see the bigger picture. I recently discovered this parable that powerfully illustrates the importance of perception regarding my approach to work. This story demonstrates that there is great value in thinking positively and in seeing the bigger picture.

The Three Stonecutters

One day a traveller, walking along a lane, came across three stonecutters working in a quarry. Each was busy cutting a block of stone. Interested to find out what they were working on, he asked the first stonecutter what he was doing. “Can’t you see? I am cutting a stone!” Still no wiser the traveller turned to the second stonecutter and asked him what he was doing. “I am cutting this block of stone to make sure that its square, and its dimensions are uniform, so that it will fit exactly in its place in a wall.” A bit closer to finding out what the stonecutters were working on but still unclear, the traveller turned to the third stonecutter. He seemed to be the happiest of the three and when asked what he was doing replied: “I am building a cathedral.”

Seeing the Big Picture

This story illustrates a key leadership quality — seeing the big picture. All three stone cutters were doing the same thing, but each gave a different answer, which revealed the difference in their attitude towards their job. The first stonecutter is simply doing a day’s work for a day’s pay, for the material reward he receives in exchange for his labor. The substance of his work, the purpose of his work, the context of his work do not matter. The second stonecutter is a perfectionist that receives satisfaction from himself…consumed with individual ambition to be the best. This individual is blinded to the fact that there would be no stones to cut if not for the community building a cathedral.

What set’s the third stonecutter apart? This person embraces a broader vision. It’s interesting that he can visualize the end result…a cathedral, knowing that he will not live long enough to see its completion. (Building a cathedral may take years and years and years…) This stonecutter is giving a lifetime of work that will connect the present and future with generations to come. He may not live to see the total results of his labor, but he knows that his labor is not in vain. He has the ability to see significance in work, beyond the obvious. He has a vision, a sense of the bigger picture.


Understanding that a legacy will live on, whether in the stone of a cathedral, or in the impact made on other people, is the reason I am called to ministry to children and families.  I am grateful to be connected to a community of people with a passion to teach the gospel to the next generation. To tell them that Jesus will love them forever and they can trust God no matter what!  Though there are difficult situations in ministry and managing the administration can be burdensome but I will trust God to keep the big picture in focus and trust Him to provide more stone cutters to serve and lead.

We have an opportunity while serving in a church to produce not just leaders who make a difference in the world but leaders who make a difference for the world–for the Glory of God! 

We may not need more cathedrals but we do need cathedral thinkers, people who can think beyond their own lifetimes. ~Author Unknown

3 thoughts on “Leadership: Seeing The Big Picture: The Story of The Three Stonecutters

  1. The stonecutter parable that you shared makes an important point. I must admit that naturally, I am more like the second worker–but life is so much more fulfilling with the third worker’s outlook! I am not alone; I am part of a world-wide, millennia-encompassing, God-led team!
    You ask the question “What leadership quality would be at the top of your list?” Although I have never really thought about it this way, the first thought that comes to my mind is that a true leader must be willing to be a servant, as well. 🙂

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