There is an old fable from the mid-1800’s some of us learned as children—it always intrigued me. The fable is called The Emperor’s New Clothes and the moral of the story is centered around the acceptance of harsh honesty.

The story is about an emperor who loved nothing more than fine clothes. Knowing this, a couple of swindlers come to town and offered to make him the finest suit of all time, free of charge, but then only those who are worthy of their posts in his court — and those who are intelligent enough — will be able to see them.

As the clothes are being made, the emperor sends in several trustworthy and highly intelligent people to examine them. Though none of them could see any fabric or patterns, because there was nothing to see, none of them would admit they had seen nothing — none of them wanted to be deemed unworthy or unintelligent.

When the clothing is finished, the emperor’s trustworthy and highly intelligent people pretend to dress him in his fine new suit for his processional throughout the town. Also, knowing the precedence that had been set regarding those who are able to see the clothes, everyone in town commented on how beautiful the emperor’s new clothes were. It wasn’t until a child in the crowd shouted out that the emperor was naked that others joined in his obvious observance. The emperor, knowing that the crowd was right in their chants, continued with the processional and pretended to be wearing fine clothes.

For the most part — as I have grown to take on various leadership roles throughout my career — I’ve been surrounded by genuine, forthcoming people who felt comfortable enough to tell me when I wasn’t actually wearing the “suit.” It may not have always been what I wanted to hear, but it was what I needed to hear. That acceptance of harsh honesty has saved me from dozens of scenarios where I may have been at risk of falling victim to my own disbelief.

When we consent to the positions of leadership that are bestowed upon us, it is often a struggle within ourselves — and with others — to know that we do not have all of the answers. After all, we have been put in these positions due to our intellect and trustworthiness — the same reasons the emperor had appointed people to his court.

Our internal struggle is mostly with that of our ego, because as leaders, everyone expects us to lead — whether verbally or by example — motivate our teammates, command their attention, and control their focus. We, as leaders, must dig deep and challenge our teammates to think differently, act differently and above all else, perform differently.

In the moments when we’re acknowledged for our accomplishments, we are praised for those acts of leadership. So as we shoulder these responsibilities and expectations as leaders, we must also shoulder and control the burden of our inflated ego.

Thinking back to the story of the emperor, had the people surrounding him not been afraid of the results of their honesty, he may have avoided such public embarrassment. Those surrounding him would have faired better had they given him the harsh honesty up front. Regardless of setting — whether a boardroom or a town processional — we all must be open to the truth, open to the reality of being told we’re “naked.”

Sometimes, that harsh honesty will come at the expense of sensitivity, political correctness, relationships, or the egos of our leaders, but are those expenses more costly than other tradeoffs like progress and high performance? I think you’ll find the answer to be, in fact, no.

Take Action: Don’t be that “Emperor”….be open to honesty today by creating an atmosphere of truth telling.

Leadership on the GO…..It’s O.N



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How to see Clearly Beyond Obvious Barriers

by Onyeka Nchege on October 16, 2017

Years ago, I was deep in conversation at lunch with a colleague, when she paused to comment on how dirty my glasses were. I was surprised, since I hadn’t yet noticed anything out of the ordinary. But, after I cleaned them and put them back on, I realized how much those small smudges had been affecting my ability to see clearly.

Although seemingly insignificant, this gentle reminder to wipe my view clean had a lasting effect on me. I realized my colleague was right – my glasses were dirty, but not just in the literal sense. I wasn’t seeing things as clearly as I could have been, and even worse, I hadn’t noticed how blurry my sight had become.

It’s moments like this that remind us to look at the world from a new and different view. Oftentimes, our perspective and outlook on the world can collect smudges when left uncleaned. Unless we’re vigilantly aware of our sight-lines, we can look at the world from an increasingly limited vantage point.

Clear vision is not just about keeping up with the latest industry trends or being aware of the next market disruptor. In order to imagine powerful new possibilities and ideas, we must first take a clear and discerning look at ourselves. By recognizing our own vulnerabilities and shortcomings with full transparency, we can think more carefully about what it is we might not be seeing.

Strong leaders need the humility to recognize when our own glasses are dirty and need to be wiped clean. After all, what may be blurred by our own vision may be crystal clear to the person next to us. #Perspective

This process of self-reflection isn’t just important for our decision-making, but it’s also critical to how we interact with the people around us. Our vision of the world is reflected in how we engage with other people and even in how we see ourselves. By being aware of our own blind spots and being diligent about wiping away the things that distort our vision, we can see those around us with a fresh pair of eyes – or in this case, glasses. It reminds us that everyone comes with their own vulnerabilities, burdens and unique history.

By taking the time to observe and consider different viewpoints, we expand our perspectives beyond our own. And while perfect vision may be 20/20, there’s no right or wrong way of viewing any problem, scenario or new idea. Like completing a jigsaw puzzle, we often need a different set of eyes to discover which piece fits where.

The day I realized my glasses were dirty has since transformed how I live my life in the years that followed. So much so, that I now carry a cloth in my pocket at all times (in fact I sent the image associated with this post to my friend to thank her for the feedback on my glasses which sparked the idea for this post). Now not only are my glasses smudge-free, but I also have a physical, conscious reminder to always reconsider my perspective and the views of those around me.

Take Action: when was the last time you wiped your view? Decide today to reconsider perspectives.

Leadership on the GO…..it’s O.N.



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Football Helmets Hit TLC

September 7, 2017

A couple of weeks ago, my son Kalu sent me a last-minute text message inviting me to a “helmet striping” event for his Lovejoy High School football team. I had no idea what a “helmet striping” event was, but something told me I should drop everything and be there for him. Often times, we don’t know when—or where—we will make memories with our children, especially when it comes to father and son. As it turns out, this “helmet striping” event was organized by the team’s Head Coach, designed for fathers to help their sons put the stripes and school logo on their brand-new football helmets. Sounds pretty simplistic, but the […]

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Taking a “Life Stand”

August 10, 2017

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you must take a stand against the things that mean to derail you and push you further back down the line At that point it ceases to be about you and your selfish needs and wants….it is absolutely bigger than you and it is undoubtedly about your survival. It’s you or it. You know you can do nothing on your own to win this “life stand”. When you get here, dig deep within, plant your feet, square your shoulder, and stand firm. Simultaneously, believe deeply, tap into your faith, raise your praise and worship voice, and be bold. What’s next you ask? […]

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Raising Your Own Bar

June 7, 2017

While spending time with my father during one of his recent visits, I made time to connect with him one-on-one, man-to-man, so that I could draw from his endless wisdom. These valued moments that I have with him, not only allow me to grow mentally, but they are also when I realize how blessed I am to still have my father in my life as a constant teacher of his life’s successes and setbacks. During this reflective time together, he asked me, “What does it take to become a success? And, perhaps more importantly, what does it take to remain one?” I’ve never thought about that before. At that moment, […]

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