Weekender: Mr. T on Pitying Fools

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Welcome to another edition of leadersayswhat’s the Weekender, a link of thought to start your weekend on the right track. Why just a link (versus the full necklace)? Because it’s the weekend!

On April Fools Day, we must pay homage to the man who has been pitying fools since I can remember. Mr. T is an icon. His signature look mixed with his positive message has impacted many people since he emerged in the 1970s. One role that stood out, aside from a personal favorite in The A-Team, was as Clubber Lang in Rocky III.

In Rocky, Mr. T first uttered his famous “I pity the fool.” With his imposing presence, this may sound like a threat. It could also be perceived as a form of contempt, a way to patronize while appearing polite, like when someone from the south says, “Bless her heart.”* Mr. T’s intent, however, is far more beneficial.

I’ve been in the pity business for many years. Everybody I pity is not a fool, and all fools I don’t pity… When I pity anybody, I’m showing them mercy. Pitying is showing mercy, so take away the hate, there’s enough going on, and show some compassion. Because pitying means you’re gonna give them a break. You’re gonna let them slide.

For anyone in a leadership position, you are bound to be faced with someone who makes a mistake. At this instant, you have a choice. Option one is to write them off. This may include doubting their capabilities or mental abilities, and/or dismissing them as insignificant, a nonperformer, or unengaged.

Option two is to pity the fool. This involves listening to their side to determine why they made that particular decision. You can then develop constructive solutions to help them learn from the situation so they don’t make the same mistake again.

Take the Mr. T approach to leading others. Pity and improve other’s performance. Take an active role in making them better at their job. If they don’t take advantage of your wisdom and advice, bless their heart. However, if they do improve, you’ll have one less fool on your team to pity.


*In case someone has ever said “Bless your heart” to you, there’s no “blessing” taking place. This is a southern way of saying, “You are an idiot but I care about you and don’t want to hurt your feelings.” For instance, I once heard a manager say, “She doesn’t know how to reboot a computer, bless her heart.”

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