In November 1787, George Washington offered this advice in a letter to his nephew Bushrod:
“Rise but seldom—let this be on important matters—and then make yourself thoroughly acquainted with the subject. Never be agitated by more than a decent warmth, & offer your sentiments with modest diffidence—opinions thus given, are listened to with more attention than when delivered in a dictatorial stile. The latter, if attended to at all, although they may force conviction, is sure to convey disgust also.”
What profound advice. Could it still be relevant in the always-on and rather selfish culture that has pervaded the twenty-first century? We live in a world infested by sound-bites in search of ears. Sadly, many offer little more than noise. The paucity of in-depth or critical thought is stark, yet we continue on—often blindly—in pursuit of change.
If real progress is to be made to effect change, whether it be in the halls of power, boardrooms, executive suites or on the factory floor, might a 'rise but seldom' philosophy offer more hope than the prevailing sound-bite culture? On Washington's example, the answer could be 'yes'.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and effective board practice; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.