a mash-up of leadership & deception
Is it possible that in many ways we misjudge the idea of what is actually this thing called leadership? After all, what does it mean to lead?
Consider : the first image that likely sprung to the reader’s mind when the idea of leadership was presented here was almost certainly that of a politician or a corporate CEO. Leaders, yes. And clear indicators of who in our hearts we hope inherently and wholeheartedly embraces the qualities of leadership we hold so abstractly in our minds.
But are these the selfsame?
This essay only presents the question because it seems entrenched in our modern definition of those leaders, wrapped around the very notion of the archetypal elected official or formulaic business executive that dishonesty is a key component of their character. The trope is well-formed, if perhaps ill-deserved: Don’t all politicians lie, and don’t all chief executives cook books?
Well, no. Of course not. Yet, therein the question brews upon our minds and ferments within our hearts: Is dishonesty actually inseparable from the act of leading people? Does a leader (if only occasionally) need to bend the truth to lead towards a greater goal?
One may posit however that leadership transcends those stereotypes far more often than the metaphorical glove fits it. Some leaders are less deserving of the title than others. Some leaders, wherever the definition of that notion ultimately lands upon, are less leaders than they are rule makers or authoritarians with the elected or employed mandate to spend collective resources or command the appointed keepers of the peace. Some leaders drive unceremoniously from the front, while others rustle the crowds from behind. Still others, bark orders from offstage, participating more as spectators than actors in the play itself.
All these roles have their merits. Though, leadership, in a broader scope of the notion is something greater than this role — is it not? It may consider itself an action. Or perhaps it is a tool. It’s something that can be taken up and wielded, but it is also something that can be squandered, misused, or corrupted. But it seems as though it should be so much more than a job description.
And perhaps it is the failures of notable leaders that bends our thoughts and preconceptions of the act of leadership, and leans to the darker corners of that definition.
Deeper thinkers have suggested that leaders can themselves lead from many various perspectives, after all, not just the dark ones. And deception, whatever it’s purpose, is merited (and perhaps even tolerated by those being led) when the chosen perspective is one that itself benefits from such leverage.
We, all of us, lie and deceive (at least on occasion if not by variable measures) as a kind of communicative misdirection, employed when the sum tallies more favorably through negative mathematics. Could it not be argued that communication is but a kind of nudging of one person’s interests upon that of another? That all communication is a form of leading perceptions and understandings towards a goal, disclosed or otherwise? Or that dishonesty is merely another form of communication towards this end, as much as it wants for moral justification.
One could seek to balance the moral equation with suggestions of the abstract notion of a so-called greater good or spared emotions or even the same wont that makes it unethical to shout “fire!” in a crowded theater even if there is truth in the exclamation and claiming it would lead the people to safety. So, truth, as it is often told, is occasionally over-rated.
Thus be one a mere politician or someone as lofty as a true savior of the people, it seems difficult to fully discount the question. Is dishonesty actually inseparable from the act of leading people? Even in such cases as it can be justified, the pursuit of raw truth seems noble however unrealistic for the efforts of a leader.
As those being lead, perhaps then it is something we should often try to remember.