Leading Blog


The Court Jester and the Illumination of Blind Spots

Court Jester
On Twitter last month I wrote, “As a leader, if you are not encouraging candid feedback, you are just asking for trouble. Do you have a court jester?” It’s a valid question.

French politician Bernard Tapie wrote “If you haven’t got people around who’ll tell you when to take a running jump, you're not a proper boss.”

Manfred Ket de Vries has long advocated the need for a so-called “organizational fool.” He writes, “Leaders in all organizations need someone like this who is willing to speak out and tell the leader how it is. That is precisely the role of the fool.”

David Riveness has given us The Secret Life of the Corporate Jester that delves into the specific task of the Court Jester—the concept of jestership. Leaders most often don’t receive the unvarnished truth and most organizational cultures don’t encourage it. As a result blind spots in their thinking keeps them “from recognizing critical information, powerful choices, and clear paths to follow.” The lack of truth also creates a cycle of arrogance that feeds on itself.

The jester concept is a perspective we need to incorporate and encourage in those around us. The jester understands that “in organizations, flawed actions result from an incomplete awareness and understanding of organizational truth.”

Riveness suggests that the jester philosophy can be adopted in three distinct but complementary ways:
  • A philosophy an individual commits to in order to further his or her own abilities and growth: an internal jester. Something we all need to readdress. This is the best place to begin and will give you credibility when trying to work on the next two.
  • A philosophy an individual commits to in order to further another’s abilities and growth: an internal jester for others; to provide a voice when no one else will speak.
  • A philosophy committed to by a group of people in order to further the entire group’s abilities.
Jestership, Riveness writes, “could involve speaking your mind more often, speaking up for those that choose not to, challenging the status quo and illuminating the blind spots you uncover in more public ways. Remember to use your jester skills to perform all of the above with subtlety, creativity, and grace because this role can be very tricky—even dangerous if entered into haphazardly.”

Most people aren’t ready to have their blind spots uncovered, so begin with your own. The example you set, will in time, draw others to the jester philosophy.

The author’s web site can be found at CorporateJester.com

Related Interest:
  12 Keys to Greater Self-Awareness

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:52 PM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Management


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