Re-reading Cervantes.

Posted by jlubans on December 31, 2013

Caption: Illustration by Honoré Daumier (1808-79).
Someone said that Don Quixote – The Knight of the Mournful Countenance - should be read three times: when young, in middle age, and again when old. I am in the midst of the latter reading. My translation is by Samuel Putnam from 1949.
Putnam’s a lively re-telling, yet faithful to the original from the early 1600s. I am fond of the Knight-Errant, and just as fond of his long suffering, proverb-cracking Squire, the often mid-understood Sancho Panza. He is far from the Rabelaisian dolt some make him out to be. Even La Mancha’s Knight-Errant – in his lucid moments – drolly observes: “What intelligent things you say sometimes! One would think you had studied.”
I’ve been focused on Sancho in this reading because he reminds me of the “Lovable Fool” category in a recent management taxonomy* of our office mates. The lovable fool is someone you like to be around, even if they are not the best and the brightest, and they may indeed help a group come together, get over the uncomfortable bits of becoming a team, and make progress. Along with the lovable fool is the “lovable star” who shines brightly in any enterprise; we all want to reflect in the glory of this celebrity. We are less drawn to their antonyms, the “competent jerk” and the “incompetent jerk”. While avoiding the latter is obvious, we may be injudicious to exclude the smart jerk from our team.
While we’ve probably experienced each of the four the typology does not fit every group every time. As I think of my 11 paddling companions on the Rio Grande in early November, I can identify a competent jerk and a lovable fool but that’s about it, at least from my perspective. My colleagues on the water might have other ideas, so I am happy not to inquire too deeply!
Try it out for yourself: Which one of these (fool, star, smart jerk, dumb jerk) are you? Hard to say, most of us are probably a blend of the four or somewhere found in the interstices.
These typologies – be they for ways of leading or following or resolving conflict - even when extrapolated cubically, have their limits, but that should not prevent us from drawing lessons from them. Certainly, Sancho – rooted to the soil and field and ever pragmatic - would have little difficulty in extracting some sensible truth: “Your grace, come back, Senor Don Quixote, I swear to God you're charging sheep!”

*Casciaro, Tiziana and Miguel Sousa Lobo, “Competent Jerks, Lovable Fools and the Formation of Social Networks,” HBR June 2005

Leading from the Middle Library of the Week: Turkey’s Izmir Institute of Technology 

Copyright John Lubans 2013
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