Wisdom from the Three Pines
“I don’t know.” “I need help.” “I’m sorry.” “I was wrong.”
If you visit Three Pines and encounter Armand Gamache, which you can do by reading Still Life by Louise Penny, you will find that these are the things that Gamache believes lead to wisdom. As the Chief Inspector for the Homicide division of the Quebec Surrette, he teaches these things to young cadets. For these young officers, these statements seem weak and unappealing. Eventually, through time and trial, they come to understand how true and central to wisdom they are.
The ability to reflect and to allow oneself to be vulnerable are among the key competencies that leaders need in our emerging context. If you think you know it all, don’t need others, regret nothing and never face your mistakes, you may careen onward, but you may not lead or succeed. It is interesting too, to consider how much we can learn from other disciplines. Imagine considering these from a seasoned homicide detective, and a fictional one at that. In the context in which we are living analogous learning has never been more important. As leaders we must pay attention to what is effective no matter where we find it. I remember having that underscored for me at the Leadership Summit I attended at West Point, learning from powerful, humble leaders. Among them, to my surprise, was Frances Hesselbein.
And sometimes, even good fiction, can be a great gateway to places like Three Pines. “I don’t know.” “I need help.” “I’m sorry.” “I was wrong.”
But wait. There’s more.
In her book A Better Man, before responding to any situation by saying something, Lousie Penny suggests through the character of Gamache, three questions:
“Is it true?” “Is it kind?” “Is it necessary?”
Imagine if we applied these filters in our vocations. If we measured our words for truth, kindness and necessity. We make a lot of assumptions and we run, often quickly, to conclusions. But what if the thing we are on the verge of saying is not true, or only partially true, or misdirected.
Kindness is virtue we desperately need to recover it in discourse. Not to be confused with being nice. I may for the sake of kindness need to say something to you that you may not perceive as nice, but if is true and necessary, I do you a kindness in candidly saying it, and you to me as well.
Something may be true, difficult and kind, and does not need to be said, because perhaps you are only underscoring the obvious. Or it becomes a matter of I told you so. You can think of how often something gratuitous and unnecessary is said. We are flooded with unnecessary words.
Speak less, read more. And while you are at it, take a trip to Three Pines.