Being a great leader, no matter if you’re a politician running for office or a manager moving up the corporate ladder, requires one skill that no one will teach you in school. It is a particular art form which there is no course for, even in an MBA curriculum. That skill, the most important of all, is the art of lying.
It’s a matter of semantics, you can say, as the ability to hide the truth or fib or changing the subject is one of the most vital character traits of a leader. It is why many great leaders are sociopaths – lacking empathy helps in business, especially if you have the rare ability to convince others you care. Needless to say, I don’t do this well. As an INFP and enneagram 4 and Johnny Appleseed’s third cousin once removed, I’m partial to full-on truth. Luckily so far I haven’t been faced with anything challenging to keep under wraps. But I’ve seen leaders who I know, and even respect, flawlessly execute weeks without hinting at what is discussed behind closed doors.
Maybe college should offer a course on lying – lessons in leadership: the lost, but secretly never actually lost art of perfidy.
Except colleges already know that the best leaders already intimately know how smile and handshake their way through any looming storm. The less you feel, the better you can lead. Pick your poison regarding your favorite leadership style and you’ll find charisma synonymous with the ability to smooth any cracked surface. It’s a talent which you’re either born with or beaten into you in some way. Most leaders are men because most men are taught to not have emotions from day one. Women are typically expected to be openly emotional and thus, for some, when we enter the workforce the culture of deceit can shock our systems and leave us riding on empty.
Is it possible to be a leader and never tell a lie?
Only if you refuse to accept its definition.
Definition of LIE
Leaders are liars and liars are leaders. It is quite simple. But not all of us, men or women, are cut out to live a life of caring more about cashflow than people. And in capitalism we create this vicious cycle, this pyramid scheme from top down, with everyone clawing to get up and few ever making it to the tippy-top point where all you can do is lie – to others and yourself – in order to handle any remnants of feelings you once had for the sanctity of human life. It is up to us to perform the roles in the machine that cannot yet be performed by robots, but to think much like a robot, to make all decisions on communication and action based on a clearly calculated call on risk.
Maybe I’m just ravenously dissatisfied with our world today, a sentiment fueled by my marathon Mad Men watching and a general acknowledgement that no matter what firm you’re in, no matter what era, it is a dog eat dog world, and in this world I’m more or less a pescatarian.