Great Leaders Don’t Do This

[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 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.


  1. 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.
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

17 thoughts on “Great Leaders Don’t Do This

  1. Albert Ayer

    I thought that great leaders always told the truth, no matter the pushback. I always believed they had the moral courage to do what is right and “damn the consequences.” I was wrong.

  2. Kenny Foster

    Great leaders don’t do a lot of things because those things are either unethical or unlawful. There is another reason, perhaps just as important, and that is whenever leaders lie, cheat, steal, or do something that strikes at the heart of humanness, I believe they will ultimately fail. Hillary Clinton is a classic example of a liar who will continue to fail for this reason alone. She has a nasty personality and that reinforces her problems.

  3. Dale Paul Fox

    Thank you for a most crucial topic that people today like to ignore.

  4. Mr. T J Asper

    Good that you have highlighted the importance of not lying, especially for personal gain. People will never let you forget it.

  5. Eric Coda

    Excellent example. And this is the women many Millenials want to be the next US President. Weird.

    1. Gil Johnson

      Much is to be said about Millineals and this is one of them. I hear complaints all the time that they want something for nothing, believe in doing as little work as possible, and generally being idiots. Perhaps that is why I’m old. Ha!

  6. Yusaf from Texas

    Very good article for contemplation this morning. Thank you, Gen. Satterfield.

  7. Georgie M.

    I just love these articles that point to leaders – by name – that do good or do bad things. We can also read about them in the media (which distorts reality). Thanks for making my day. Pocahontas! How appropriate for Pres Trump to repeatedly call her that.

  8. Bryan Lee

    Some people will tell you that the lying is only at the higher levels of govt. That is not true and from experience the opposite is true. At the local levels, the truth often goes out the window as soon as the politician opens his or her mouth. They’re just more subtle about it at the higher levels of govt.

  9. Wilson Cox

    I was 15 years old before I knew that lying politician was two words. Not really but there should be no surprise that the temptation to embellish one’s record and promise the world if elected is the bane of ethics in politicians.

  10. Drew Dill

    Senator Richard Blumenthal lied about his military service by claiming he served in the Vietnam War. It was a blatant lie. The people from Connecticut don’t care about that or the fact he cannot be trusted because they just want some rich guy who makes them feel good as their senator. What is it about these North East US states that produces so many liars in their politics?

  11. Max Foster

    You could not have picked a better example of a politician in it for herself. Perhaps Hillary Clinton is a better example overall but Elizabeth Warren’s lie about her heritage is so in-your-face that it defies reality.

    1. Forrest Gump

      Yep, Hillary and Elizabeth are the dumbest politicians that can never miss a chance to lie.

    2. Max Foster

      Thank you for your feedback. Both of these “ladies” give women a bad name in politics. Women are more likely to be seen as liars and underhanded. Traits no one likes. Why they get elected in politics is beyond my understanding.


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