Why you need to be a fool

Since when it was first spoken till this moment, God is still in the amazing business of choosing the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. In other words, if you want to be truly wise, dare to be a fool! Well, what do I mean by a fool? This is the reason for preparing this meal in the midst of the night—for your consumption. The taste of the pudding they say is in the eating. Let’s go!

Some would say a fool is someone deficient and poor in judgment. And others would say a fool is someone who appears ridiculous or absurd, but I say that a fool is someone who defies conventional, predictable and usual thinking to communicate truth—that’s the kind of fool every great and significant leader should be. In actual fact, we need this kind of fools (leaders) in Nigeria right now—to move us forward as a people.

Elon Musk is someone, who defies predictable and conventional thinking to birth change and progress in the current business world. He fits completely into the mould of what I am declaring here today. The Wright brothers also defied conventional thinking to move the world forward in their day.  Over the years, I have come to find out that history does not remember those who do usual things; history only recognizes those—who defy conventional thinking to do unusual things.

This is the kind of ultra-wise foolishness that you would need to exemplify, on the condition that you desire to become a great leader in this day and time. I know what I am touching on today will be considered foolishness by conventional minds. The “wise” and “learned” cannot recognize it, though it is readily embraced by the simple, the childlike, the “foolish.” Are you childlike (not childish)?

Too many leaders, whether in business, government, sports, or ministry, take themselves too seriously. They jealously guard their dignity. They demand respect. Some even want to be feared by their subordinates. Thinking themselves wise, they foolishly maintain a stiff dignity that communicates coldness and creates resentment and distrust. This is the foremost basis why many leaders are failing today.

I remember the story of an Engineer—who was employed to lead the production unit of a reputable company in the beautiful nation of Nigeria. He was to lead a team of technicians—who did not have the kind of certificates he was holding, but they were more technically sound than him. On his first day at work, he moved around as a “king-kong.” On his second day in office, he began to bark out orders. After a week, those he was leading met and decided to teach him a remarkable lesson. Remember, they were more technically sound than him.

In the course of their meeting, they agreed to remove a vital part of a machine that would cause production to come to a halt. When this happened, they all withdrew and was expecting the new man to give them an order on what to do. They knew he did not know jack on how things were running in the company. After a few hours, when he did not know what to do, he called the former unit-head on how he was able to run the unit without any problem. This is what he said to him: “…You’d need to be as a fool to lead those people. You’d need to sit where they sit. Sometimes, you’d need to buy them lunch from your salary…Remember, they know the in and out of every machine in that company…Your success depends on them.” On the next day, he began to be a fool before them and almost all of a sudden, the machine that was not working before began to work again, maximally!

Buddy, maybe the reason you have not been experiencing upper limit success as a leader is because you are yet to gain knowledge of how to be a fool before your followers. You may need to learn how to lead them in an unusual way. You may need to learn how to lead them unconventionally. You may need to personally serve them some tea and drink it with them once in a month and probably every month.

For the umpteenth time, please understand and value that a wise leader is not afraid to sacrifice stateliness and poise in order to make a personal connection with the people in the organization. This leader knows that a willingness to play the fool pays off in motivation, enthusiasm, and contagious energy. If taking a pie in the face will help make a point and build an atmosphere of healthy fun in the workplace, why not? If this is what your success depends on as a leader, then go ahead and do it!

When John Amerman took over as CEO of Mattel Toys in 1987, the company was reeling in 113million dollars one-year loss. Several of the toy lines had fizzled. Morale had plunged. His first day on the job, Amerman wandered around the company headquarters and made a startling discovery. It was as if Santa’s workshop had become a Soviet gulag! The company’s products were fun—but nobody at Mattel was having any fun.

On his second day at Mattel, John Amerman announced a new policy: Henceforth, people at Mattel were expected to have fun. And to make sure that the lines of communication were open at Mattel, Amerman took a walk through the Mattel facility every day. He ate in the cafeteria and talked to all the workers. Morale began to soar. Profits climbed. In just three short years, Mattel rebounded to a record 91 million dollars profit in 1990.

Foolish behavior, right? Outrageous! Undignified. Shocking. Maybe so. But that kind of wise foolishness saved a lot of employee jobs and shareholder’s equity at Mattel. It is paradoxical and illogical, but it is so true. A wise leader is a fool. As a leader, over the years, I have come to believe in “wise-foolishness” when it comes to leading the people into groundbreaking success.

Can you afford to be a fool in order to lead your people into recurring landmark success in your place of work? If the retort is no, then you are not geared up and prepared yet to become successful as a leader.

See you where great leaders are found!