“All That Glitters, Is Not Gold.”
~ William Shakespeare
We’ve all heard the expression of fool’s gold. I think that I first heard the expression when I was a kid playing in streams while camping and noticing shiny rocks in the streams and asking my father if there could be gold in the shiny rocks. He would tell me that most of it was “fool’s gold”. Fool’s gold is the kind of the stuff that, upon first glance, would appear as the real thing. If you were quick to assume that the shiny speckles in the rock were gold, without having the skill, wisdom and patience to evaluate what was in front of you, then you were a fool, (or something along those lines). A fool can’t tell the difference between that which glitters, like gold, and that which is actually gold. A fool jumps to conclusions. A fool is lured by what shines. A fool might want something to be the real thing so eagerly or desperately but does not take the time to look at the details. A fool might even notice a blemish or two but does not have the discipline or self confidence to trust his concern about the blemish. The fool may even down play the concern for fear of being wrong, indecisive, miss out on the shiny new thing.
How does this saying by Shakespeare, which originally stated, “all that glisters is not gold”, pertain to leadership? As leaders, we have many opportunities to be fooled: to see only the sparkles and shine and not pay attention to the blemish that could indicate a serious issue. One example where I see this challenge is when leaders are looking for talent to hire. They see the shine of the candidate. Maybe they see something that isn’t right in a potential hire, but downplay it, especially if the leader feels pressure or desperation to fill a position. And so we may rush to hire someone before we’ve checked out the the shine to be real.
Perhaps we as leaders could pause and heed the advice of Jack Welsh which is “to hire more slowly, and fire more quickly.” Maybe there is a shiny a business opportunity that looks appealing. Maybe you’ve received council from a shiny consultant or sales person that tells you what you want to hear rather than tell you the truth. I have seen polished sales people disguised as financial advisers show shiny investment “opportunities” to people. I’ve seen smart people make incredibly naive investment decisions because of the shiny allure of feeling special and going for the shine. Maybe you have a new potential business relationship or client or even friend that has loads of shiny promise and you go forward without properly negotiating the new relationship. Maybe you take your best clients, employees or colleagues for granted and neglect them and the goldmine of support that they’ve offered you, in order to go for that new glittery possibility. As humans, we don’t want to miss out on a potential opportunity so we may fall for the shine before standing back and seeing if the glowing light is just a fading flame.
Of course as a leader, you have to take risks. Without question, consistently playing it safe is the greatest threat to your career, business, leadership and overall development in life. If we stay looking for gold in the familiar safety of the same empty stream, then we may be destined to turn up nothing but worthless rocks, both dull and shiny. Self discovery as well as creating new opportunities does require exploration of the unknown and leaving the familiar at times.
This search for gold has an opposing end of the polarity gold quest. Our desire for perfection (or at least avoidance of failure) can sometimes paralyze us into believing that nothing is ever gold and we delay opportunities until they fade away. The engineer in me can sometimes allow my fear of the new find fault and problems in fresh opportunities and get stuck into analysis paralysis.
I am not suggesting that we ignore all that shines. Nor am I suggesting that you become skeptical of anything that has a glister appeal. I am asking you to pay attention to your own gold and what it looks like to you. Identify it. Look for it. Manifest it. Get it. And then, show it off. Share your gold and make the world better a better place.
Thank you for reading and sharing this article. I welcome your thoughts, ideas and comments in the below comments section.
Your coach, fan and friend,
L4 Leadership LLC