Before the announcement of the tentative deal between Iran and the United States and a few of its allies, US Secretary of State John Kerry was quoted by Time (2013, November 25) as saying “We are not blind, and I don’t think we are stupid.”. Within hours after the preliminary deal’s announcement, elected and non-elected leaders from across the political spectrum in the US and their counterparts around the world seemed to be either questioning that or hoping for its accuracy. Some may have remembered the words attributed to Wendy Sherman, State Department Under Secretary and chief US negotiator in Geneva, “We know that deception is part of the [Iranian] DNA” (Wright, 2013, p. 22).
Perhaps the question of blindness or stupidity is a frequent thought in the minds of followers and, perhaps, of leaders themselves. Leaders certainly do not want followers thinking they are blind or stupid; some may however, assert that some of their fellow leaders, specifically their adversaries, are either or both. Followers do not want to think that the leaders they support are either blind or stupid; analogous to the leaders, some followers may assert, perhaps regularly, that the leaders they do not follow are blind or stupid, or both.
Although having some elected leaders behave as if they were blind or stupid, with no disrespect intended to the blind or the stupid and not referring specifically to eyesight, may have political advantages, having people in leadership positions with either trait is not generally in the best interests of organizations, communities, or countries. People in leadership positions who make decisions as if they cannot see or do not recognize reality and truth generally leads to a choice of poor vision and direction.
With the context of the Kerry quote, blindness has little to do with the proper transmission of visual signals from the eye to the brain along the optic nerve. Such blindness results, instead, from the way individual or collective brains process what they believe they are seeing. Such blindness is a matter of interpretation; as such, the Kerry-referenced blindness seems to be a matter of learning, either what one has or has not learned.
Within the context of the Kerry quote, stupidity may not have a correlation with intelligence. Like the reference to blindness, the stupidity noted by Kerry more than likely refers to correct interpretation of facts and reality. Like the blindness reference, the Kerry use of stupidity seems to be poor decision-making based on learning over time.
An on-going study that I am conducting, involving nearly 14,000 people in positions of leadership from 82 countries gives insight into what leaders believe about leadership. Leaders believe leaders should have expertise and intelligence. Leaders should be astute in processing facts. Not all people in positions of leadership are necessarily leaders. However, in the case of the negotiators involved in nuclear talks, one hopes that the individuals in positions charged with leading the way in these matters are, in fact, leaders who prove to be neither blind nor stupid.
Time. (2013, November 25). Briefing. Time, 182(22), 11.
Wright, R. (2013, October 28). Iran’s man on wire. The country’s chief envoy faces a tricky balancing act. Time, 182(18), 22.