[July 8, 2018] A few years ago I was speaking with a good friend of mine who had just finished a 30-year career as a U.S. Army Colonel. He was a wonderful leader in many aspects and it was shocking to me that he had not been promoted to Flag Officer rank. Later, I found out something about his past; something that great leaders always avoid.1
Leaders must be transparent to be effective leaders and that means they must follow the rules, act ethically and responsibly, and be good at connecting with others. If you are lax on any of these, your career will be cut short.
You could be mocked for it too and that is what is happening to U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. Although she denies it, Senator Warren lied about her heritage and she did it for personal gain. Early in her career she claimed to be American Indian to help her secure a faculty position at Harvard University.2
Now that she is in the political spotlight, anything that she has done or not done will be fodder for her opponents. Her problem is that once the lie was exposed she chose to obfuscate rather than admit to it and move on. This only makes it worse.
The U.S. President Donald Trump has used her lie about her heritage (and some will say continued lying) to hammer her relentlessly as unethical, irresponsible, and willing to bend the rules for her own personal use. These are leadership themes as we have studied here at theLeaderMaker.com website since its inception.
Mockery is the most effective weapon that a savvy politician wields. This past week, Trump said that he would offer her $1 million to take a DNA test to prove her Native American heritage. He has repeatedly called her “Pocahontas” in reference to her fake identify. So far, she has declined to take the test.
The problem that Warren has is that no matter how much good she does or how smart and witty she is, she will not now be able to shake off the Pocahontas label as a liar. She has put herself in a position of no return. Great leaders simply do not lie for personal gain.
- Colonel James R., much to my surprise, had never completed his university Bachelor’s degree. Having a bachelor’s degree is one of the many rules about the U.S. military that cannot be waived and you cannot be grandfathered in as an exemption. James had lied. He lied about his degree and it was discovered when he was applied for General Officer rank. Great leaders don’t do this. Now he was being forced out.