KATHMANDU: Last week while I was planning to write on a topic, I came upon an enthralling novel The Knight In Rusty Armour by Robert Fisher. The knight, the main character of the novel, thought of himself as good, kind, and loving and was doing all the things that knights with such traits would do. One day he found that he was stuck in his armour, which was a metaphor for the qualities he had adopted — good, kind and loving.
When the knight complains of being stuck in his armour, someone says to him: “We’re all stuck in armour of a kind. Yours is merely easier to find.”
Unknowingly we project good qualities for our protection and when we become obsessed with it, we are stuck in the invisible
armour created by ourselves. One of my trainers often says during his training that he tried to be a good son to his parents and he could not be a true son. What is the difference between being good and being true? Are they very different things?
Let us first explore why we want to be good? Is it because we are really good or because we want approval and appreciation? If we are appearing good because of the greed for appreciation or fear of criticism, then we are not true. Greed and fear themselves are bad emotions. How can they lead to real good?
Many times, being good could be equivalent to being submissive. Our culture labels submission as good behaviour and reinforces it by compliments. Some people wear the armour of anger and rudeness to protect themselves because they think the armour of being good is too weak for their protection.
The real question is not about being good or bad.
The problem starts when we use a certain pattern of behaviours as our protection. With time, we become so efficient with behaviours that they become an unconscious pattern. It is good to be good with people, but at the same time it is also important to learn how to
disagree where our mind or heart does not concur with boss or colleagues.
Many people in my training express that if they disagree with their bosses they will lose their jobs. To disagree without being rude requires professionalism. If we adopt everything from people around us only to be accepted in the group, we are killing ourselves. While being ourselves, we also need to acknowledge the differences in others. Then differences do not become a source of conflict but something of wonder.
The most difficult but crucial skill is to respond to an unfavourable situation. At times we are required to take harsh interventions which may not be good for everyone. A good leader acts without dilemma. If we are really good from inside, we do not need to be concerned about looking bad outside. As the magician asks the knight in the novel, “If you really were good, kind, and loving, why did you have to prove it?”
(The author is a leadership trainer and consultant associated with ‘Kabule — The Wise Leader’ and ‘Catalyst for Transformation’. He can be contacted through email@example.com)