Taking Steps Toward Leadership–Public displays of Ignorance

I listen to the radio in the morning.  My husband has his alarm set to an oldies station so sometimes it sounds like that alarm scene in “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray.  Anyway, the announcer comes on and does the weather report and says, “What the heck is the difference between light snow and flurries?  What is the difference between freezing drizzle and sleet?  Why don’t they just come out and say things plainly?  I will never understand this…”  So, I sent him an explanation.  It’s not hard.  That is certainly plainer than “It’s cold and wet and might be slippery.  Oh and the stuff is gonna look like snow but it will stick and freeze to your windshield when you’re driving.  It will be snowing later like crazy but it’s not going to get deep.”  Wouldn’t a normal reaction to unfamiliar terms be to find out what the terms mean?  Apparently not.

For some strange reason, we have become a culture that doesn’t recognize intelligence and insight as something to be attained, emulated, or praised.  We avoid it like the plague.  Isn’t that strange?  Many of our best leaders preface their remarks by saying, “I’m not the brightest guy in the world but I know this…”  Hey, the brightest guy in the world wouldn’t be the least bit interested to hear what you have to say on that subject.  Why?  Because if he had an opinion on the subject, HE’D be making the statement.”I am the brightest guy in the world and I know this…”  What they are saying is that if they can figure out something, the information is available and understandable to even the least bright.  I worry about that.  The people that preface their observations and statements of “facts” and relevant information are trying to prey on those poor sots that will take everything on faith:  the ones that say, “I saw it on the internet.  It must be true.”  What about, “I saw it on Jerry Springer so it must be true.”  “I saw it on Oprah so it must be true.”  “I saw it on Fox News…”  It’s information that even stupid people like you could understand, and I’m going to put it into a format that will make it look believable by identifying myself with you.

When I’m teaching music, sometimes a student misses a note.  I ask them if it sounds funny, then, instead of reading the note and checking to see if they are playing the note they see, THEY GUESS.  If they are playing in a hand position that doesn’t require movement or stretching, they have a 1 in 5 chance of getting the note.  If they have moved their hand, it goes to 1 in 88, because they will guess they have to move their hand more, and maybe switch hands.  I ask what the name of the note is, then they can tell me or guess.  Once again, they have a 1 in 8 chance of getting the note right.  The picture of the note on the staff and the location on the keyboard are often on the same page as the song they are playing.  But instead of looking it up, they guess.  Why do they guess?  Is it because the process of getting the correct information isn’t worth the 2-3 seconds it would take to look at the top of the page?

If you are a leader, praise people that go the extra mile, that look up things they don’t know or understand, that ask questions, that seek answers.  Why are smart people referred to as Geeks, Dorks, Nerds?  Brilliant people are relegated to positions of respect–Doctors, Lawyers, Rocket Scientists.  You cannot have a brilliant policeman, garbage collector, teacher. This is a stupid assumption!  We believe pretty people on TV with smug attitudes and condescending language.  There are no facts on TV, the language is manipulated to give a spin to events and statistics that meet the criteria of the station’s political/scientific/religious perceptions.  People are not encouraged to gather information themselves.  They are pushed to believe whatever the visual images are meant to tell.  If you are a leader, seek wisdom and information.  Do not call anything rocket science unless it IS rocket science.  Do not demean your intelligence or your insight to pacify those less intelligent than you.

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