Jamie Notter , November 04, 2008
I think the topic of speaking the truth is terribly important. The idea of a Jester as a speaker of the truth is interesting, and I like the way David Riveness applies the concept to organizations, arguing for cultures that support jestership (now there's a consultant word you don't hear every day), which he defines as:
hunting for and illuminating to others the blind spots in thinking and action that keep individuals and organizations from reaching their full potential.
As Riveness points out, however, the hardest part about being the jester is not discovering the blind spots, but in communicating them in a way that people can hear it and respond to it. Say it the wrong way, and it could be "off with your head!" Jestership requires effective communication skills and understanding emotional intelligence. It's hard to have your blind spots pointed out.
So here's something to reflect on. Riveness talks about the power of creating a culture that supports jestership, and I completely agree. Bottom line: a culture that supports telling the truth is going to be more effective. What's interesting is that we NEED to move in that direction. In other words, the standard culture to expect is one where it is hard to tell the truth.
Isn't that shocking? Or, at least, shouldn't it be shocking? Why do we put up with NOT telling the truth?
Another thing to think about: jestership is a critical leadership function that is clearly the domain of those NOT in power. Not that the top of the org chart shouldn't be telling the truth and pointing out each other's blind spots--they should. But it's just harder when you're at the top. People without authority bring a unique perspective and have different eyes that can see different blind spots.
Don't forget: leadership is not about power; it is about the capacity of the whole system to shape the future. Are you actively supporting the leadership functions of those not in power?