As I was studying my favorite book this weekend, these two words stood out, choose wisely. Although they are not explicitly written, they are implicitly understood. An organization was experiencing rapid growth. They were growing so fast that several needs were left unmet. A certain group of people felt as though they were excluded or less than cared for because of their particular heritage or the language they spoke. They were not the majority. As minorities, they felt as though they were not receiving the same treatment. The majority had privileges and were given preferential treatment. Whether this was real or perceived, it created a major problem.
The leaders needed to solve the problem. Rather than resolving the issue directly, the leaders involved the people in the identification and resolution phases. They were inclusive leaders. To make sure this particular challenge did not raise its ugly head again, the leadership team told the people to elect representatives to lead them in this area. They were told to choose seven people with these three qualifications: they must have a good reputation, must be ethical, and have the wisdom to get the job done. They would need to choose wisely.
The parable of the scorpion and the frog demonstrates an example of choosing poorly. The frog chose to listen to the scorpion who clearly had a bad reputation, was unethical, and unwise. The scorpion was a schemer but did not possess wisdom. Let’s briefly unpack the three qualifications.
Choose wisely those with a good reputation. How many times have we hired people, promoted employees, or elected candidates into office only to discover that they are doing things that reflect poorly on themselves as well as the organization? As the old saying goes, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Examining the track records of others should help us make informed decisions prior to our endorsement of their personhood. The frog allowed the scorpion into his personal space even though he knew about his bad reputation.
Choose wisely those who are ethical. Why are we surprised when we hear about unethical and immoral people doing unethical and immoral things? I recently heard John Maxwell say that he was leadership sad. I can relate to this statement. Real leaders should be sad as we survey the landscape and see leaders who are misleading followers and/or violating their trust. We should be even sadder when we see followers who support these leaders and do not hold them accountable. There should never be trust without accountability. There are many dishonest leaders because people allow it. When we take a stand, nefarious leaders will have to take a seat. The frog knew the scorpion was unethical and should have never allowed him to ride his back.
Choose wisely those who have the wisdom to get the job done. Great leaders surround themselves with other leaders who have complementary skills. They bring in people with the wisdom to challenge them and get the job done. General Patton said, “Select leaders for accomplishment and not for affection.” In the heat of battle, rewarding people who compliment you instead of those who complement you is a losing proposition. Choosing those who will always agree with you instead of challenging your assumptions is another point of failure. Electing people who are family and friends but are unable to get the job done is unwise. If the frog and scorpion ran into trouble in the river, with neither the skill set nor the wisdom to figure it out, the scorpion could not help.
The next time you have a decision to make about a leader, representative, or employee, choose wisely based on the three factors mentioned above. For those who have not read the illustration, please click The-Scorpion-and-the-Frog for the full story.