None of us, no matter how smart we are, has a monopoly on wisdom! At any given time, we need to tap into a Greater Power to manifest true wisdom; and bring out the genius within.
Sometimes, that wisdom comes to us in the form of advisors; people who may have lived through similar experiences, or developed a keen intuition and awareness, about the situations that we’re dealing with.
While I never suggest consulting a plethora of people before making a decision that concerns our lives ÔÇô after all, each person knows what’s best for them – yet as leaders in various spheres of life, who’re sometimes called upon to make decisions that impact a wide range of people, consultation, and seeking out the wisdom of others, can be critical.
But some of us equate ‘consultation’ with ‘seeking permission.’ We see it as a sign of weakness; and so we’re reluctant to do it.
Consultation can never diminish our power, in fact, it can only enhance it; as we benefit from the counsel of others; and involve them in decisions that affect their destiny.
Many of us in positions of power and leadership still consult sparingly. Instead of seeking advice; and allowing our opinions to be influenced by knowledgeable stakeholders, we engage a small coterie of ‘yes women’ to tell us what we want to hear and rubber stamp our decisions. Others of us are so confident in our opinions and positions, that we don’t even give the pretext of seeking advice. We see it as beneath us, and dismiss others’ input out of hand.
But failing to heed advice can lead us astray; and blind us to reality. History is littered with examples of leaders who failed to listen to their subordinates, resulting in calamity. Do you remember the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbour?
On that fateful day, two army privates, who were also experienced radar operators, saw a large blip on their radar screen and estimated this to be around fifty planes. They contacted the radar office and duly informed the duty officer, a first lieutenant who, although senior in rank to them, had little practical training.
Failing to appreciate the seriousness of the situation, the senior officer assumed it was a returning squadron of B-17 aircrafts and uttered the now infamous words: “don’t worry about it!” His failure to heed advice lead to a greater loss of lives and ships, than otherwise might have been the case.
None of us is too smart, or too important, to listen to other people. Even Moses, God’s leader of leaders, had a council of advisors that he listened to; and they helped make Moses the memorable leader he is today. When God appointed the advisors, he said to Moses, “…they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.” (Number 11:17). No one, however brilliant, does it alone!
But research carried out by Pablo Bri├▒ol et al shows that people, particularly powerful people, are vulnerable to hubris, or excessive self-regard. They thrive on blind adoration and make short-shrift of nay-sayers. They’re like the emperor, whose extreme narcissism lead him to block out crucial advice. His resulting come down was cruel and absolute, because pride always comes before the fall.
According to an ancient fable by Hans Christian Anderson, there was once a vain emperor whose only interest in life was to dress up in fashionable clothes. He changed his clothes incessantly, so that people could admire and respect him. Two thieves decided to teach him a lesson.
They told the emperor that they were fine tailors and could sew a lovely new suit for him. “It will be so light and fine that it will seem invisible,” they claimed. “Only those who are stupid will not be able to see it.”
The emperor, now very excited, ordered the new, avant-garde tailors to begin their work.
After some time, the Emperor asked the Prime Minister to go and check on the tailors’ progress. While the Prime Minister saw the two thieves moving scissors in the air, he couldn’t see any cloth! But he kept quiet for fear of being called stupid and ignorant. Instead, he praised the fabric and said it was marvelous!
Finally, the Emperor’s new suit was deemed ready; and was taken to him for his approval. Although he too could see nothing, he also didn’t want to appear stupid, so he admired the suit, thanked the tailors and paid them handsomely.
The thieves asked the Emperor to parade down the street for all to see his new clothes. Although people could only see a naked emperor, no one admitted it, for fear of being thought stupid. They foolishly praised the invisible fabric and its radiant colours, which pleased the Emperor greatly!
Only one small child, not yet primed to be a sycophant, cried out innocently: “The Emperor is naked!”
Soon everyone began to murmur the same thing, until they all shouted, “The Emperor is naked!” But it was too late; the damage was done.
Many of us walk around ‘naked’ every day because we deprive ourselves of vital advice. When we stifle or ignore the opinions of others, we risk embarrassment. People who could help us, but fear to, allow us to parade in the streets in our apparent magnificence, knowing full well that we have no clothes on, just like the Emperor.
In life, be open to the opinions of others. They not only deserve your respect, but they could elevate you to true greatness.
Further, if you play the role of advisor in anyone’s life, be honest! People are counting on you to tell them when they’re naked!
* Primrose Oteng is a Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) and the Founder of the Positive Peace Project, an organization dedicated to creating positive change through personal empowerment. Boost positivity and productivity in your workplace by booking an Inspirational Talk at: [email protected]; or visit: www.positivepeaceproject.co.bw for more information.