There has been debate on the 48 Laws of Power and many advised the Deputy President of Kenya to read Law number 1 which says Never Outshine Your Master. The law simply states that it is a big mistake to appear smarter or brighter than your master. Most Kenyans think the DP violated this law leading to a strained relationship between him and his boss.
Whereas this is true to some extent, it cannot be the gospel truth. Only stupid, with little or no ambition people follow this law. Those that follow this law remain average and never advance in their career. You can never move forward if all that is in your mind is you must look dumber than your boss.
If your focus is not to outshine your master, you are likely to remain stuck with your average boss all your life. Those that follow this law follow their master like sheep with their heads down. I am of the opinion that appeasing a mediocre boss is a waste of your life. You must wake up, smell the coffee and effectively outshine your boss.
You can effectively outshine your boss by being professionally neutral. This you do by bringing in results and positioning all you do to be for the good of the organization. You can effectively outshine your boss by making it very difficult for them to strike back without them looking vengeful. This will only happen if you publicly declare how much you love and respect your boss. Outshine your master effectively by playing the subordinate and being unthreatening.
An open-minded boss will not stop your career progression just because you are smarter than them. I am of the opinion that a good boss will hire subordinates who are smarter than them. They will help the smarter subordinates to unlock their potential and make the organization shine. However, the good boss must not allow such to backstab and advance dysfunctional politics in the organization.
This law is good for employees who want to live a simple, modest, and safe life. The kind that wants to be in the comfort zone doing the bare minimum. The followers who are either the Yes Sir, Sheep, or survivors can use this law.
Follow this law if you have a boss who is rising and carrying you with them. In other words, do not outshine your boss if they are rising and carrying you along in their rising.
Should you act and remain stupid just because your boss is stupid? Let the conversation continue in the comments section.
Dr. Mary Mugo
Strategy, Governance, and Management Consultant