LEADERSHIP PERSPECTIVE; THE LESSON FROM AN “ATOLE”
(Reloaded from October 13, 2016)
March 31, 2021
Atole is a derogatory Yoruba word for someone that frequently urinates while sleeping. This is a very shameful thing for both the Atole and those close to him or her and today I want to share a very crucial lesson I learnt from a 8year old girl in 1999. This lesson has been with me ever since then and I have meditated extensively on it with modifications and adaptations to other situations.
It was a Saturday morning and I was at my friend Yinka Omibiyi’s place at Ogba in Ikeja Lagos state. We were standing outside the house and this precocious 8year old girl was entertaining us when her mother came out and interrupted; “what’s she talking about? I will come to your school on Monday and tell your whole class that you “bedwet”. She said irritatingly and in desperate attempt to threaten her. The little girl pulsed for a while, then without looking in the direction of her mother answered: “Hmmm! Come now. What do you know other children are doing in their houses that are bad, but you come and tell the whole world that yours bedwets”. To say we were all shocked at that response is an understatement; in fact, the mother was speechless while others busted into laughter after we recovered from the mother–child altercation. That was the last time I saw the girl but I can never forget what I witnessed that day. As you can see, i can't remember the girl's name but you can guess what will first come to my mind if i see her today, 17years after.
Many times in life, we are confronted with great and embarrassing challenges but in an attempt to give drastic solutions, we are confronted with options that can damage institutions (families, churches and administrations). I have discovered from deep meditations on this Atole example and many others that I have considered that public embarrassments don’t solve many problems; they only cause emotional wounds and damage relationships. In this particular case, as the little girl posited, the mother would have ended up embarrassing herself too because many people will later see her as the mother of the girl that wets her bed, even many years after the girl must have stopped bed-wetting.
I see many friends on social media who are swift to make comments that suggest the challenges they have with their spouses and I just sigh; I don’t know how that would solve the situation but I can't forget in a hurry the impression it gave me of the one who posted and the spouse in question. No doubt, blowing the whistle sometime works but that’s when it’s well executed. I have made several mistakes in the past too but whenever I consider the situation from this perspective, I take redress. Even in public leadership, we must be very careful not to destroy institutions and the systems in an attempt to solve a great problem; we must consider the bigger pictures and be careful not to lay a wrong precedence.
Many political leaders enjoy embarrassing their followers in public; it makes them feel like the boss. However, truly it makes you feel like the boss but it also gives a lasting impression of your leadership which many people might remember forever. There are many examples in our polity and society: the Governor insulting the deputy in public, the Pastor describing his ministers as terrible, President calling his Ministers as noisemakers. I have studied and discovered that the aims of such public comments and treatments are never achieved. Like the case of the Atole, announcing in the class is not a guarantee solution to bedwetting, in fact, it might compound it.
The lesson today is: deal with the drastic problems drastically from the roots without destroying the institutions. Never lose sight of the big picture and be careful not to set a memorable wrong precedence. I have always asked myself what is the ultimate aim of this reaction; causing a public scene and embarrassment always appear easier but in the long run, they are always more costly.
Hmmm! Friends, as leaders and leaders-in making, we must be very careful how we handle issues. There is always more than one route to a particular destination but the shortest one is not necessarily the best one.
LEADERSHIP QUOTE: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you”. –Friedrich Nietzsche.