The Rabbi, Jesus, and Le Rat: The Solution To A Key Leadership Dilemma


Having good judgment is impossible to teach. So I thought, until I heard this story. I was at the Bat Mitzvah of the daughter of close Jewish friends. The Rabbi told a story about Jesus. “Eureka!” I yelled in my head. “That’s the answer to learning the hardest skill emerging leaders have to master.” It’s so simple, yet so powerful. Here it is.

The biggest barrier to would-be leaders achieving their goals is perceived lack of sound judgment.

We are given leadership positions because our bosses trust our judgment … that at key moments of truth, we will make the right call. This skill comes naturally to some, and often evolves with experience.

Now- I have never known how to best coach emerging leaders on how to develop judgment. Until I heard this story.  Here it is, as told by the Rabbi.

“A minister was trying to guide a troubled young man on how to lead a more Christian life. ‘Here,’ he said. ‘I have made you a wrist band with W.W.J.D?  written on it. It stands for What Would Jesus Do? Every time you have to make a decision on how to behave or what to do on your journey, ask yourself: ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ And use that as your guide’. ‘So,” said the Rabbi. “I want to talk today about W.W.A.J.D? What Would A Jew Do?” And he went on to discuss Jewish values.

The Lesson For Young Leaders

Think about someone in business or your life whose judgment you admire and place real stock in. Let’s say it’s a parent, or perhaps an early boss, or a great leader like Nelson Mandela. Figuratively, in your mind, create that wrist band: W.W.D.D? What Would Dad Do? W.W.P.D? What Would Paula Do? (an early boss of mine in Hong Kong, who helped shape me as a professional, and is a Possums reader 25 years later from her home in Virginia). W.W.N.D? What Would Nelson Do? Think about who this role model and ‘sounding board’ is for you.

As you work in the trenches day to day and tricky issues emerge that need your judgment call, check in with your figurative role model. “Hang on- what would Dad do? What would Paula do? What would Nelson do?” And use that imaginary sounding board as a reality check on the decision you are about to make.

But What About Le Rat?

I was telling Russ Vine about this. Russ runs Junior, our brilliant advertising and communications business in Brisbane. “Nothing new there, Chris,” Russ replied. “At Junior we have had W.W.L.R.D? for years. It guides everything we do.” “What the heck is W.W.L.R.D?” I asked him.

“What Would Le Rat Do?” he replied. “ Whenever we need to solve a client issue, we always challenge our thinking by ensuring we bring to it rat cunning. Is there a smarter way? That’s why we created Le Rat, the most cunning thinker around. We always look at problem solving from the perspective of Le Rat. It helps us develop sharper, more powerful ideas.”

And A Final Word From Picasso

Picasso was an old man. Sitting in a restaurant one day, a woman rushed up to him: “My God, you’re Picasso! Please please please- scribble me a drawing on this serviette.” This he did in a quick 20 second flourish. As he handed it to her, he said: “Madame, here it is. That will be $100,000 please.”  “Oh, but you must be joking Mr. Picasso. That’s ridiculous! That drawing only took you but a few seconds. ”  “No Madame,” he replied.” It took me 84 years to do that.”

Nothing builds solid judgment more than hard fought experience and battle scars. But adopting a figurative role model early, someone who can be by your side as an invisible sounding board at all times, is a bloody good idea, and will accelerate your abilities in this critical aspect of leadership. Wish I had thought of that 30 years ago.

P.S. Oh- and with the big decisions, always try to give them time before you push the ‘go’ button. Ogilvy’s Paul Cocks taught me the ’24 hour test.’  Let big decisions sit for 24 hours if you can. Think about them. Let them settle in your mind. And then come back to them fresh 24 hours later. And ALWAYS do this with emotional emails you have written. Park them. Re-read them 24 hours later. You’ll never send them. Guaranteed!

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