Friday, September 15, 2006

Perodic humility dosings: some political leaders could use more of them

Periodic humility dosings: some political leaders could use more of them!

About 12:15 last night, as I was in the middle of packing for an eight day trip to Hungary, the fire alarm gong began its incessant, intrusive ringing. Cursing, I filled up my candy bowl with a fresh supply of Reese cups and “Rolos” and went out into the night. It was the last thing I wanted to do.

But there is value in the fire alarm evacuation experience I T reduces moments of life to a fairly elemental level. One experiences of humility A bell summons us to stand in the dark. One must then pass the time somehow (for exapmle, by handing out candy) until the crisis is past. Other parts of life – including packing for an ‘ important’ international trip – are involuntary brought to a halt.

I think it would be useful for Presidents, George Bush, Vladimir Putin, Robert Mugabe and other world leaders to be periodically summoned for fire alarm evacuations as well as having to do their own laundry, ironing, grocery cleaning and toilet scrubbing. They are freed from these mundane responsibilities by virtue of the important and far reaching responsibilities attached to the positions they hold. But there is a danger. Men and women freed too long from mundane responsibilities often develop an inflated sense of self importance. They may begin assuming that they, themselves, are some special breed of human being, permanently elevated above the ranks of ordinary men and women.

A corollary of this inflated sense of importance can be closed mindedness to views other than their own and an unwillingness to be open to the most important thing a leader needs to know, “bad news.” Often it is not the leader who is harmed by the hubris that such closed mindedness creates, it is hapless employees of the organizations they lead or hapless citizens of the countries they lead.

Bush, Putin and Mugabe are among many leaders who could benefit from a dose of humility. Perhaps an occasional fire alarm evacuation or periodic toilet scrubbing responsibilities in Presidential living quarters would help.


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