How The Seduction of Folly Propagates Lousy Leadership

The benefit of folly is enjoyed immediately.


Delayed consequences intensify folly’s seduction.

Bullying is easier than winning hearts. A foolish leader pressures people into compliance. She enjoys a bump in production, in the short-term.

Worse yet, short-sighted managers come to believe bullying is necessary to achieve great results. After all, it works.

Compliance and conformity become mediocrity and resistance.

A foolish manager pretends he knows when he’s ignorant. He enjoys undeserved respect, in the short-term. But folly propagates itself.

Deception becomes easier with practice. One successful lie leads to the next until the truth comes out.

The seduction of folly is quick easy wins.

The value of wisdom becomes obvious in the long-term.

Learning to be a wise leader:

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” Confucius

Write the names of any ten people you know on a list.

  1. What are they doing that helps them flourish? Makes their life painful or frustrating?
  2. What are they doing that strengthens relationships? Weakens?
  3. How are they strengthening the relationships around them? Driving wedges between people?
  4. What are they doing to serve and strengthen the community at large?


  1. Where do you see self-inflicted pain in your own life? (Use the above exercise for points of comparison.)
  2. What practices will you embrace? (Based on wise behaviors you see in others.)

Envy and resentment:

Resentment makes you foolish.

You have a lousy boss that you punish by bringing less than your best to work. This is self-sabotage.

Envy keeps you foolish.

You have a beloved manager. You want what she enjoys, but envy prevents you from seeking her wisdom.

Wisdom is an aspiration for the wise and an annoyance for a closed mind.

What makes folly attractive?

How might leaders learn wisdom?