Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
Is there a fool in your company? And before you answer that there are too many to count, let’s be clear on what we mean by “fool”.
In medieval England and Europe, and well into the 17th century, the role of the fool at royal courts was an important one. His job was to entertain the king and his courtiers and he needed a multiplicity of skills to be able to do this.
But in addition to being an early forerunner of the stand-up comedian, the fool was also a teller of the truth. He had the licence to speak to the king in a way no one else could. He could use satire, irony and even sarcasm to let air out of inflated royal egos.
This took not only guts but a fine sense of judgment. Kings were God’s anointed on earth, and crossing the line could earn the fool a whipping. (It could cost others their heads.)
Fools were often among the most loyal of the king’s subjects. The fool in Shakespeare’s King Lear accompanied Lear into the wilds as he fled his two evil daughters and watched over him as he slipped into madness.
All in all, the fool sounds like the kind of person many organisations today could use: someone with the wit, wisdom and courage to question senior executives and their decisions, while risking the anger they might encounter.
But leaders need to choose their fools carefully. This is not a role for sycophants who will agree with the king and tell him what he wants to hear. That can be very dangerous for the company. Pick someone you can trust even when they tick you off.
Richard Thomas is the Principal of Clarity Communication, a corporate communication practice. He is also the author of Don’t Blame the Dog: the Musings of an Opinionated Communicator.