Rod Napier, chairman of the Napier Group and a founder of the University of Pennsylvania's graduate program in organizational consulting and executive coaching, addresses the organizational breakdown of demanding and confronting the truth.
Two iconic Pennsylvania figures, Joe Paterno and Anthony Bevilacqua, passed away this year. Both the longtime Penn State football coach and the former archbishop of Philadelphia had remarkable careers of public service and achievement that ended in scandal - scandals that will forever shadow their legacies. Both men saw themselves as close to God, but both were also treated as gods by those around them. And that may have had more to do with the scandals than has so far been appreciated.
The cultures of their respective organizations - cultures they tolerated, if not outright fostered or even demanded - probably tended to discourage the people around them from plainly stating the most unpleasant truths at hand. The most likely scenario is that these men never heard the completely unvarnished truth, because they created or tolerated cultures that did not encourage people to tell them difficult truths.
The fact is, the more influence and power we have, the less likely those around us are to tell us the truth. This dynamic is at the core of the concept of the seduction of the leader.
Truly great organizational leaders recognize this dynamic and work to counter it, actively seeking and creating an environment in which their subordinates feel free to speak plainly.
The truth is that the seduction of the leader occurs thousands of times a day, when good and not-so-good men and women have opportunities to speak the truth but don't. These small omissions and half-truths can eventually give way to deceptions that are larger and more treacherous.
Leaders must work overtly to create cultures in which the truth is systematically demanded, invited, and protected. It's not just the right thing to do; it's the smart thing to do. Ask Penn State and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Last week, Dr. Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, tweeted:
You never have to hide from the truth. Live a transparent life which honors Jesus.That sounds wonderful, but if leaders like Jack Graham and others charged with shepherding a congregation of church members who trust them, do not also live that way and demand and confront the terrible truth of child sexual predators in their midst, kids will be in danger. If the warning signs are not heeded and reported to law enforcement when predators groom kids to abuse them, like in the case of Eddie Struble, former minister at Second Baptist Church in Houston, kids will be in danger. If only Jack Graham and the staff who knew the truth about the confessed child molester, John Langworthy, had not hidden the truth, but reported these child sex crimes to the police in 1989 as required by law, informed the entire church of the truth of Langworthy's firing and reached out for anyone who had been harmed by Langworthy to go to the police, get help and start healing, other kids would not have been placed at risk for the past 23 years. They can and should still take this action today.
Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. - Mother Teresa
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. - Edmund Burke
As many lies are told with silence as with words. - Rick Warren
A brave girl comes forward, law enforcement is notified and another child predator is arrested. Gary Welch, youth pastor at Northside Baptist Churchin Corsicana, TX was arrested and recently charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child. He is accused of having a three-year affair with a teenage member of the youth group.
The light of knowledge and truth is our most important tool to protect kids.