Look for a quote about questions being orders
October 24, 2018 1:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a quote I only vaguely remember, but the gist of it was a General (US?) saying something like "When I became a General, I learned that every request (question?) I asked was heard as an order". Or something along those lines, basically the idea being that because of the power imbalance they had to be very cognizant of how and what they said because people took it as a direct command otherwise.
posted by KirTakat to Human Relations (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Definitely not a military source, but it recalls for me a similar idea from Jason Fried, founder of 37signals/Basecamp:
The root of the challenge is that the people I work with closely hear from me quite a bit. I tend to offer up a number of ideas, a lot of suggestions, and plenty of feedback about the work we're all doing together. Ninety-nine percent of the time, a suggestion from me is just that--one of many ideas on the table. But power dynamics being what they are, no matter how carefully I phrase them, my suggestions are always considered more seriously than those offered up by others. (link)
posted by misterbrandt at 2:21 PM on October 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Definitely in the right vein misterbrandt!
posted by KirTakat at 2:41 PM on October 24, 2018

I remember a quote like this. It wasn't a general, it was a CEO. The CEO of LinkedIn recounts a similar story, but doesn't name the person.
posted by willnot at 3:28 PM on October 24, 2018

I remember this anecdote, too. I think the story went on to describe an occasion where the General had a briefing on a Friday where he asked a question out of idle curiosity, was told that the answer was unknown, and thought no more about it. He came back to work on Monday, and someone showed up to report that a large number of people had worked through the weekend, consumed reams of paper and significant resources (satellite time, supercomputer time, or something?) and they could now provide the answer. It was possibly from the Space Race/Cold War era.
posted by yuwtze at 3:31 PM on October 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?

Recently former FBI director Comey used it as well
posted by Jacen at 3:32 PM on October 24, 2018 [11 favorites]

This is the thing yuwtze is remembering, I think.
posted by All Out of Lulz at 6:01 PM on October 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

I first heard if from Marshall Goldsmith, sharing an encounter with a CEO. The relevant bit is this:

The flipside to this concept is that people often take leaders' suggestions as orders. I asked J.P, “What did you learn about leadership as the CEO?” He said, “I learned a very hard lesson. My suggestions become orders. If they’re smart, they’re orders. If they’re stupid, they’re orders. If I want them to be orders, they are orders. And, if I don’t want them to be orders, they are orders anyway.”
posted by Frenchy67 at 8:31 PM on October 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm perfectly happy to accept I'm misremembering the General part, either way the CEO quote works, but I think I'll always refer to this as "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest"
posted by KirTakat at 9:08 PM on October 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

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