Sunday, November 20, 2011

Where Are The Court Jesters?

We may look condescendingly back at the organizations of Middle Ages regarding things like efficiency and effectiveness, and the other desired traits of businesses today. Yet, the royal courts and their leaders  had one asset modern bureaucracies lack: the court jester.

Think of having a trusted lieutenant whose fun to be around, smart, critical, supportive, political (in a good way) and entertaining.  Like  a mash up of Robin Roberts, David Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld and Madonna at your beckon call.

While jesters entertained by joking, juggling, singing and dancing, they also made sure an outsider’s view was heard.  They knew what mattered on the street. Jesters courageously assessed and criticized leaders' behavior, offered contrarian views and kept egos in check.  They spoke truth to power.

As an insider with an outsider’s senses, Jesters created a balance of thought and action in what were highly authoritarian and fractured organizations.  They were change agents but not revolutionaries. They kept rulers in check for the benefit of ruled.

What company executive wouldn’t benefit from a court jester at her board meeting?  What about a few jesters dancing in the halls of US Capitol? Juggling at the White House? Singing in Brussels?

Where are the court jesters now that we need them?

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