This past Spring I noticed a rash of reports (in less than one week!) about current and future leaders of all ages caught lying.
- April 27th ”The Dean of Admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was forced to resign after the school confirmed . . . that she had lied about graduating from college herself.” Marilee Jones is 55. (The Wall Street Journal)
- May 2nd Fifteen freshmen Air Force Academy cadets were expelled in a cheating scandal. The cadets “either confessed or were found guilty by an honor board of sharing answers to a test . . . .” (Louisville Courier-Journal) Assume their average age was 19.
- May 2nd (This right below the Academy cheating article . . . .) Duke University is threatening to expel or suspend 24 of 34 graduate students caught in “the largest cheating scandal ever in its Fuqua School of Business . . . . Similar answers to a take-home test led to an investigation of the final exam and other assignments . . . . The average age of students in the first-year class is 29.” (Louisville Courier-Journal)
- May 2nd “The career of John Browne, one of modern Britain’s most celebrated business leaders, has unraveled in a personal scandal . . . . Lord Browne lied to his lawyers . . . . The head of the nation’s largest company [BP, British Petroleum] was venerated in business circles . . . . people familiar with the story say the [BP] board wasn’t dismayed by the pending revelations of Lord Brown’s personal life. Rather, they say, it was his admission that he had lied to a court that triggered his hasty departure . . . . Lord Browne had long presented a tony public image.” He is 59. (The Wall Street Journal)
Bill George, Harvard Business professor and author of the recent book True North says, “Leaders who fail often do so because they fall prey to the pressures and seductions they face. It isn’t that they lack leadership skills, style or power – but that their egos, their greed, their craving for public adulation, and their fear of loss of power overwhelm their responsibility to build their institutions.”
I’m learning this particular area of leadership failure can be described even more simply. Before I decide to lie, I desire to have the world believe I am someone other than who I truly am. I build a false identity – a self that is smarter . . . is more accomplished . . . has it more together – than I really am or have.
Even when I “fudge” or imply things about myself that I know are not true, I am feeding this false identity.
To be authentic, my outer self (as the world sees me) and my inner self (as I know myself) must be ONE. This brings me back to integrity – integration – in who I am . . . intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
As a Leader . . .
- When is the last time, in the name of branding, marketing or image management, you were tempted to “fudge” it?
- Did you?
- What were you afraid others would think about you?
This can be a slippery challenge for all of us. Let me know your insights in this area of leadership integrity.