During one of my personal contemplation sessions, I was taken away by the Beatles song “Fool on the Hill” which was playing in another room in our house.
It’s the Beatles playing, so of course I had to listen to the whole song…
A Different Perspective
But perhaps because of my state-of-mind or perhaps it was my lack-of-a-state-of-mind, this song resonated strongly. While listening, I started to hear it from a Big “L” Leadership perspective (See Big “L” Leadership at previous post The Leader’s Search for Self, Meaning and Spirit.)
I have no idea what the writer’s (Paul McCartney) perspective was when the song was written. Maybe there is some deeper or mystical meaning in the song; maybe it is just about a fool. As I let the lyrics play inside my head, I started to relate them to some of my experiences as a Leader, instructor and as an Executive Coach.
Please, put on your headphones and listen.
After all what our profession demands (I am talking to the carver’s hands” etches into our soul over time and experience throughout our life.Big “L” now) is hard to achieve and it requires a depth of knowledge and skill that the “
We are highly trained professionals. And as such, we are expected to deal effectively and ethically with many issues like these:
- Intra-psychic resistances
- Denial and self-deception
- Irrational behaviors and actions
We strive to be effective in improving cultures that do not support ethical values and fair treatment of people. We continuously work to develop high levels trust and credibility in our relationships with a wide variety of people with whom we work.
This is why the lyrics of the song hit me so hard.
Same Song, Different Place
As the song begins, the lyric “nobody wants to know him, they can see that he’s just a fool” made me think of all the times when my ideas and expertise were not popular nor accepted (maybe not well understood) within management and client teams and I was the fool nobody wanted to know.
Have you ever felt like the “fool” when you are trying to execute change and improvements and every way you turn you bang into resistance from others even the company’s leaders?
It takes courage and conviction to be the fool and to not become discouraged and give up.
So the Leaders (Big L) persevere in spite of the obstacles!
The song’s refrain is “But, Sees the sun going down, And the eyes in his head, Sees the world spinning ’round.” This made me think of all the times when, despite my (and others’) best efforts working hard each day, we were unable to produce any meaningful actions or changes that would help the company (as the sun goes down).
And, we kept working as time (days) passed (with the world-spinning round) and it seemed that all our hard work and expertise failed to produce sustainable change. There were the occasional “aha moments” and some of our interventions produced that feel-good factor that soon dissipated.
- Does “the fool on the hill” suggest that we need to accept our limitations and get over ourselves?
- Can we accept just how ordinary we are in some situations?
- How hard it is to be a conscious, grownup Leader (Big L)?
- How hard is it to admit to ourselves that we all fail from time to time?
Take a look around. Time shows us how little we control.
Not On My Cloud
The song continues with the lyrics “Head in a cloud, The man of a thousand voices talking perfectly loud, But nobody ever hears him, or the sound he appears to make, and he never seems to notice…” This perspective made me think about how optimistic and positive we have to be to take on the types of assignments that define our work.
Are our heads in the clouds?
We use the vast array of systems like:
Theories | Practices | Tools
Interventions | Training | Coaching
Analysis | Experience | Judgment
to attempt to make new solutions visible and viable in the client system.
But when we do this, are there times when we are just “the man with a thousand voices that nobody hears?”
And, as we persist in executing our plans, do we sometimes fail to notice what the informal system is saying about us, the value of our work and our expertise in the “fool” conversations at the water cooler that are so common in the culture of most organizations?
Above It All
As Leaders (Big – L), we are true believers in the power of our roles so we learn to hold our noses and bite our tongues. At the higher levels of growth, we learn to respond with kindness and compassion in these situations.
At its worst, this criticism and resistance tests our character . At its best, it is an opportunity to deepen ourand consciousness growth.
Again the refrain: “But the fool on the hill, Sees the sun going down, And the eyes in his head, See the world spinning ’round.” This reminded me that each day brings both opportunity and risk. Over time sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t. Regardless, we are obligated to put our best work on the table even if it is controversial.
The song continues with the lyrics, “And nobody seems to like him, they can tell what he wants to do, and he never shows his feelings…” This perspective reminds me of how lonely and alienated we can feel when it is an uphill climb to the bottom in some assignments.
In doing our work, our clients know we are obligated to hold up the mirror with the unpleasant image in it.
Dedicated To Purpose
We want to be liked and respected, but if it comes down to one or the other, the Leader (Big L) is going to choose being respected every time. So we are obligated to do what we think is best for the client system including giving voice to the good, bad, and ugly we find in the organization.
During these times we may over-control our emotions (bury our feelings), smooth-over conflict, hold our noses, and try to take the high road when the client system may be better served if we were to “burn their cover and bust their games.”
Thus the lyrics, “And he never listens to them, He knows that they’re the fools, They don’t like him,” This pretty much sums up how to be excellent in our profession, we have to become true believers in our dedication and commitment to stand for what we believe is right and just.
Lead Like A Leader
We need thick skin because the problem with change is that everybody thinks it is about somebody else, Consequently, someone is going to feel wronged in the process and blame us.
In my experience in consulting and coaching, there are very few (little l) leaders that can resist playing the blame game or choosing a scapegoat in support of their false reality and their familiar comfort zone.
Once again the refrain: “But the fool on the hill, Sees the sun going down, And the eyes in his head, See the world spinning ’round.”
Time goes by each day, the sun goes down, and once more, we offer up our very best making progress in some areas and not much in others. So the world keeps spinning round for as long as we are here and we are responsible for everything we do.
So we “fools” follow Dr. Kopp wise recommendation and we, “learn to forgive ourselves again and again and again and again…”
Some questions to ponder:
- Is our work a version of The Fool On The Hill song?
- Are we the fool with “a thousand voices hoping we will be heard?”
- Are we a fool to be disliked because we want to change the system for the betterment of all?
- Are “they” the fools simply entrenched in functional blindness or the comfort of their reality?
- Are we all fools in the game of life and the dance of ego, power, and the need to be always competent and approved of?
I welcome your comments and thoughts.
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
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- ‘Dinner for Schmucks’ forks out $1.5M for Beatles song (hollywoodnews.com)