Leadership development is a £130 billion a year industry across the world. We have that industry thriving in Ireland also and used by those in the public eye and in positions of authority on a regular basis. Building a professional reputation takes years and only a few minutes to destroy it. One major blunder can destroy years of contributions. This is especially true when it comes to dishonesty and deception. That is why leaders seek out and are taught how to be public speakers, discreet, evasive, avoid direct answers and how to follow a course of action in order to achieve a goal.
The traditional thought is, that good leaders, be they our elected representatives or those in charge of large conglomerates, whether they are Chief Executive Officers, senior politicians, people who run either state, voluntary or charitable organisations or Church leaders, are expected to be honest, authentic, reliable, transparent and diligent to their duty. They are expected to command respect and give good example to all citizens by their actions and words.
They are perceived and expected to be people with integrity, fairness and truthfulness in the execution of their duties to the ordinary citizen or those they serve. We place our faith in the politicians we elect to take leadership and representative roles in our country. We presume that they recognise that it is their duty to be honourable and truthful in how they deal with their obligations, and be fair and equitable in their dealings with those they represent.
So is it too much to ask that those in charge, and those with whom the book stops, tell the truth and be honest in their replies and service to the public. Or, do we justify leaders who bypass the truth to cover someone else’s mistakes, delude, misinform, mislead, or question their lack of integrity? Do we expect (and even accept) those who have responsibility for the welfare of all citizens to become embroiled in untruths, evasion of the facts and not take action to rectify the wrongs perpetrated on individuals or on society at large? When wrongs are perpetrated, the ripple affect applies and many people are hurt by such actions.
Over the last number of years, we have been subjected to a continuous and daily diet of malpractice, dishonesty, deceit and lack of integrity from both State and Church, as well as the voluntary, charitable and state funded organisations. Some of those who have the power in all of these organisations have chosen to betray the trust of the ordinary citizens of our country by their words and actions. In recent days we looked on with dismay and disbelief at our Taoiseach having to make a public and humiliating apology in the Dail for untruths told and for misleading the public about known and accepted facts. Even the most junior person in any organisation would not alone check the facts of an issue being put into the public domain before appearing on television and radio, but be certain of what was said at meetings, and with politicians, check with the other high powered ministers in the Dail or others with the relevant knowledge.
All of these humiliations for the leader of our country is damaging, not alone in Ireland, but across the world and have repercussions for everybody. Those that represent the citizens of our country are expected to be people of honour and have the courage to tell the truth. People in power have the opportunity and the support of others to deceive and betray the public and use their position to instil fear and obligation in others with lesser authority. It is now quite clear that we have many people in positions of power and trust, that flaunt their authority and expect people to believe and respect them. When these scandals happen, they are extremely damaging to our citizens who feel that those in high positions can deceive and literally get away with lies and falsehoods as they deem fit. We all know that even the worst liars tell the truth sometimes, the problem is, how can we trust them in the future.
It is hard to decide what the fallout from these lies and the unprecedented collusion by senior personnel in the state will have on people. We see the unquantifiable damage that was done by the scandals in the church to both old and young. Disillusionment and anger is still felt deeply by these scandals. The denial by those in authority and the public outrage and censure at cover ups of the destruction of so many lives, have destroyed the trust and respect that people had in the Catholic church. Church authority has been eroded and their truthfulness questioned on important issues that will take a lot of redeeming. Good clergy fell foul of the fallout from the scandals that infiltrated the church and have suffered in spite of their innocence and were not supported by their superiors or those in charge. That still applies to this day.
The same will no doubt apply to how politicians will be judged by people and by those who question the values and principles, along with the ethics and morals that should be expected from those in high office. Good politicians will take the brunt of these low standards and will suffer eventually from their fallout. Will it be fair when all politicians will be painted with the same brush, as is what happened to priests and nuns?
Those in positions of trust and power have an enduring duty to give good example, have ideals and integrity, be truthful in their behaviour and be honest and moral in how they conduct their lives and show respect for the positions held. We have a mammoth task in this country to rebuild a society where honour, justice and equity can be relied on to be delivered to all citizens. When those in leadership and who hold the rein of power fail to uphold values that are expected of them, we all as a society suffer from their lack of respect and loss of reputation. This is a very dangerous place for society to be and for the example that is given to the next generation who will have to pick up the pieces. A difficult job. It takes twenty years to build a reputation and only five minutes to lose it. Was it worth it, is the question that must be asked as the public has had enough of mismanagement and mistrust from state institutions and their senior bosses. But how is it going to be changed?
Peg Hanafin, MSc.
Author of Getting more out of life
Thoughts for your journey.