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Leadership Lessons From the Emperor’s New Clothes
Let’s talk about “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. It reminds us and invites us to bring out the best in our humanity.
The story begins with two rogues who plan to cash in on the king’s vanity. This king loved clothes, changed them often, admired himself and asked others to do the same. When the “tailors” received the king, they said that after years of hard work they had discovered a way of making the fabric so light and delicate that it could hardly be seen; The king was easily persuaded, and paid a large sum of money to have the cloth woven into a king’s garment.
After a while, the prime minister was sent to report on their progress. When the cloth was shown to him, of course he could see nothing. He was sweating profusely, fearing that his stupidity and incompetence would turn out to be the worst, so to conceal the terrible fact he declared to the tailor and the king how beautiful the cloth was. Tailors show up with imaginary cloth to show the King that he, like the Prime Minister, hides the fact that he too must be stupid and incompetent by claiming that the cloth is beautiful. It was then cut into clothes for the king to try on. All present marveled at the beauty of the cloth and begged the king to show it to his subjects. The king was a little unimpressed by this, but rest assured, only a fool would not see its beauty.
As he begins the procession, two tailors hold his imaginary train. People are eager to see the cloth, but also want to see who among their neighbors is too stupid and incompetent to see it. Of course, they get frustrated when they can’t see it for themselves. As a result, everyone said it was a beautiful outfit. But one of them, who has no important job or position to protect, declares, “But he’s naked!” The father tries to silence the child, but it’s too late.Word spread and finally everyone recognized the king yes bare. The king staggered, raised his head, and returned to his castle.
So what does this story show us to be mindful of in the workplace?
1) The two villains exhibit self-centered and deceptively motivated behavior. Their desire for wealth leads the two to act in any way needed to obtain it. Their values are thrown to the winds as they exploit the king’s weaknesses to get what they want. They’re not citizens of the kingdom, and it doesn’t matter if they ruin their reputation or ruin their relationships in order to achieve their goals, because they focus on what they want, and if they’re lucky, their dishonesty will disappear before it affects Behavior was discovered.
Lesson learned: Be a team player.By definition, being a team player means we sacrifice our individual needs/preferences for the good of the whole. Differences of opinion are natural and become the main raw material for creative discussion factories. Standing our ground is important to our own integrity and decision-making process, but must be balanced with the flow of that process, the effectiveness of the team, and our future relationships with team members. Once a decision is made, the team’s decision must be supported by all team members in all locations, regardless of their stance on the issue along the way. Conflict and commitment. all Their real opinions need to be weighed in the discussion, but once a decision is made, all Commitments must be made both privately and publicly.
2) The king shows us vanity and the resulting abuse of his leadership. The king paid great attention to his appearance and changed his clothes several times a day. The excitement and recognition that comes with each new outfit only lasts for a while, so his need for more attention and self-appreciation is insatiable. Two “tailors” exploit his vanity to manipulate the king. The king’s ego is at the center of the kingdom, and his court knows they’d better serve it if they want to keep their position.
Lesson: To lead is to serve.Although the king has status, he is not a leader. He substituted the appearance of a king for the function of real leadership. Our ego creates blind spots that others see and have to deal with because we don’t. Enough safety must be created so that trusted others can provide us with the feedback we need to protect the quality of our leadership from personal blind spots. Like King, we need to remember that our leadership success is not based on others serving us, but on us serving others and our organizations.
3) The Prime Minister and his subjects showed us the impact of judgment/criticism. They fear being judged and seen as stupid and incompetent.Steeped in fear of what others might think, and fearing they might be right, they deny their own experience of reality – King yes Naked – say anything they think sounds good to other people. Because they themselves fear judgment, they relish the opportunity to confirm the folly of their neighbors.
Lesson: Create safety.Fear of judgment is a powerful driver that can take hold of a department, team, or company’s culture. If this dynamic and the fear it creates are not eliminated – surviving will become the goal and people will focus on what they think others want to hear rather than what needs to be said. Reality gets lost and absurdity becomes the norm. If you see this happening – do some exploring. Find out whose ego is being protected or what people are afraid of. Then refer to the tutorial below.
4) Children show us the freedom to speak the truth when we are not attached to any particular outcome and are fearless. He didn’t pass any judgment on the king’s nudity – he just said he was. A small statement of reality spreads like wildfire because it has the power of truth behind it. This frees the other person to deal with a reality they previously denied through fear.
Lesson: Be brave! The child has nothing to lose and can therefore be fearless in his description of the king. Most of us will lose something, so it’s hard to be truly fearless. Instead, we need courage. Courage is being afraid of what’s in front of you, but taking a step towards it anyway – it’s a lot harder than being fearless. This is what we see our heroes do on the battlefield and on the shop floor, as firefighters and managers, in boardrooms and kitchens. Life offers each of us the opportunity to be a hero, to speak a little more and be willing to hear a little more truth every day.
So The Emperor’s New Clothes isn’t just about leadership weaknesses. It has lessons for all of us.
1) Be a team player. 2) To lead is to serve. 3) Create safety. 4) Be brave.
Try this exercise:
Consider that each of the four types of characters in the story represents not an individual, but a characteristic of all of us. We are all scoundrels, vain kings, feared prime ministers and subjects, heroic or at least innocent children unafraid to speak the truth. Think about when less-than-ideal reactions occur and how you would like to change them. Planning ahead will prevent them from overwhelming you and help you respond to them the way you like.
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