Robert Greene’s classic – The 48 Laws of Power – is a book I have come to rely as I serve important people in the world. My most important phrase, in that book, remains “never outshine the master”.
That understanding is very important especially when some of my Igbo brethren ask me to make a presentation on their behalf before their foreign clients. I did one in OTC few years ago. When moments like that come, my job was to make the master flow through me, and not me, even though I work to show brilliance and capabilities.
The man who might not have finished secondary school but has tons of money to hire anyone he wants MUST be the master in that boardroom. He must assume the command. He must be presented as the leader, even when he is not talking.
“Never outshine the master” does not mean that you cannot shine. The real deal is making sure you understand that you are a messenger. It takes wisdom to watch two elders in the village debate on things which you certainly know better than them, and yet hold your peace, until they invite you.
How do you disappear as you stand for that master so that you keep appearing? You must learn how not to outshine the master. That does not mean that you cannot pursue excellence. Without that the master will not even allow you near him! Yes, you must deliver so that at the end, he will say “I am good in building great teams”, and his partners will congratulate him for that.
Simply, you must manage the delivery and perception as you serve that master. In politics, business and most things, it is an important wisdom to have if you want to keep moving up!
The perfect example can be found in the Holy Book, John played the perfect game, without taking the shine off the Divine Master, even when he had the chance to play that ridiculous ‘smart game’ most humans usually get entangled in, whenever an inch is given to them.
I remember one presidential media chat that took place before the 2015 general elections in Nigeria, where the anchor did virtually everything possible to outshine the president she’s interviewing, it was beyond ridiculous anyway. But we see similar things in many places, even those sent to give material or financial support to some people, end up posturing as if they are the real benefactors; a good example of what it means to overplay one’s usefulness and relevance.
Earlier this morning, I was reflecting on the distinctions between humility and timidity, and why one must not be mistaken for the other. Humility will allow you to maintain a cool head, even when advising or representing those you think you are better off, you aren’t called for a popularity contest, so do not make any attempt to outshine the person who ordinarily should be the centre of attention. To do so may as well qualify as stealing by tricks, and that makes you a thief.