Lazy, but brilliant

This is the fourth in a series of posts for my portfolio assignment for the Banff Centre Cultural Leadership program.

I grew up with parents who worked their arses off and and valued hard work of any kind. When my father retired, I wrote an ode to his work ethic and have taken great pride in my assertion that I have never said, “That is not my job”. I have recently discovered, thanks to the help from some brilliant teachers, colleagues and friends that being happy to do any job and being a leader are not the same thing.

I feel like I could fill dozens of blog posts about the learning from the Banff Centre Cultural Leadership program, but in the interest of being lazy, but brilliant, I have kept it at a solid five. Dr. Julian Norris introduced me to this concept in November 2018 and has changed me for life.

From my research since Dr. Norris introduced this concept to me, I have discovered that Kurt Gebhard Adolf Philipp Freiherr von Hammerstein-Equord, the Commander-in-Chief of the WW2 German Army had a system of classifying his officers.

“I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent — their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy — they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent — he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.”

I don’t agree with the language from Sir Kurt, but his concept stuck with me.

Courtesy of

Why be a hard worker, but be a meddling micro-manager? Why be an expert in only one field? Who wants to coast through life doing the bare minimum to collect a paycheque? I decided to pursue ways for a lazy, but brilliant approach so I can choose my work time wisely as well as how I spend the rest of time in my life.

Ask why. Ask why again. Ask it three more times.

Know when to step up and when to step back.

Ask for help often.

Say no ask often as you need to.

Turn off your damn phone if you are having a conversation with someone in the room.

These prompts will change as my priorities do, but they have served me well so far. I am reading more, listening more and taking stock of what my gut tells me to do. I am asking even more questions and talking to people face to face instead of checking engagement scores. I am taking care of my loved ones and taking care of myself.

Heartfelt thanks to Diane, Howard, Lexi, Erin, Risa, Charlie, Martha, Valerie, Josh, Meg, Dawn, Heather, Jonathan, Kenji, Jenna, Lori, Liesl, Jessica, Katie, Kate, Pedro, Emile, Maude, Ted, and Clare. May you all be lazy, but brilliant.


1 Comment

  1. June 14, 2019 / 8:18 am

    Julie – great post and it is quite meaningful to read your reflections. This is, indeed, a powerful concept and one I have struggled to reach myself having dutifully prided myself all my life at getting into the office before others and being the last to leave and being willing to do anything asked of me. It has been a great lesson to me working with all of you in the Cultural Leadership Program this year that sitting and doing nothing but listening and asking questions can be my highest purpose and most effective actions for most of the day. I have more and more endeavored to adopt the stance of “guide on the side” rather than the “sage on the stage” – advice from Allison King to lecturers; however, I think it holds in many other circumstances in life as well (parenting, managing, etc.) It has been an incredible privilege to be in the room with you and the others in your cohort this year. I look forward to future posts from you and to crossing paths again in the future. Lazy but Brilliant!

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