A place for healthy scepticism


Scepticism can be a useful attitude for a leader – the leader’s own scepticism about the latest fads and trends, and the scepticism of others, which, if attended to, can be at once levelling and enriching. These three quick points are taken for some of my recent writing:

  1. Listen to the fool. Shakespeare often used the character of the fool as a foil for the leader: Falstaff in Henry IV and V; Feste in Twelfth Night, Touchstone in As You like It and the Fool in King Lear. In the latter, the Fool reverses roles when he tells Lear, ‘If thou wert my fool, nuncle, I’d have thee beaten for being old before thy time.’ (Act 1.v.915). The modern leader might take note. The wags of the staff room can similarly use humour with serious intent and the wise leader would do well to listen, as such commentary can bring us back to reality and prick our bubble of acquired self-importance.
  2. Distinguish importance and self-importance. Leadership is a serious business where decisions impacton people’s lives and the directions organisations take. There is, however, a distinction to be made between importance and self-importance. The leader is well-advised to maintain perspective and not take him/herself too seriously.
  3. Use humour – wisely. There is no doubting the value of humour for the leader. It is not only the wag in the staff room who is able to use humour to good effect. Humour can help diffuse difficult situations; it can change atmosphere; it can engender engagement, and it can promote harmony. Quite simply, it can make the workplace fun. Humour does, however, require a delicate touch!

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