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The fool as an interim manager or a coach




The figure of the fool has a long history that dates back to the fifth dynasty of ancient Egypt. The fool entertained and united ordinary people in their compassion and aversion, often with a physical or mental deviation. At the same time he confronted them with the artificiality of the games they played and put his weaknesses against their freedom of thought and action. The climax in the Western tradition was really only at the beginning of the 17th century, when Shakespeare wrote King Lear. In this masterly tragedy – with themes such as power versus chaos and emptiness, integrity and loyalty versus betrayal and division and reconciliation – the fool is the embodiment of truth and reason. He’s the only one who understands the motives and behaviour of Lear, his daughters and the other characters and reflects the old king’s mistakes, weaknesses and increasing madness.

From then on the fool develops into a character that constructively, independently and disinterestedly adds value to his master. Insider and yet still outsider, free from the limitations of politics and hierarchy and observing things the way they present themselves to him, he is constantly looking for deeper underlying truths and root causes. After all, he knows that change is constant, but that perspective is not. And he also knows that learning and insights can come from unexpected angles.

The motives of the modern fool lie in releasing old patterns, designs, ideas, discovering opportunities for innovation, learning to learn and unlearning a habit, improving and enhancing people to help themselves.

He mediates, searches for the truth, punctures bombastic balloons, creates conditions for right-brain activity within the organisation, stretches certainties, promotes non-conformism and encourages laughter. He puts his ear to the ground in the corridors, helps to foster trust and builds bridges. In short, he is a pure change agent. All this not out of some sort of ego trip, but from the demand of his client.

Literature


David Firth & Alan Leigh, The corporate fool. Capstone Publishing Ltd, Oxford, 1998
Gordon MacKenzie, Orbiting the giant hairball. A corporate fool's guide to surviving with grace. Viking Penguin, New York, 1998
Beatrice K. Otto, Fools are everywhere. The court jester around the world. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2001
Danah Zohar, Rewiring the corporate brain. Using the new science to rethink how we structure and lead organisations. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco (CA), 1997
The fool
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