When Leaders Lie It Will Follow Them Forever

By | August 9, 2017

[August 9, 2017]  A good friend of mine (I’ll call her Jane) lied about her minor criminal background on her application to be a U.S. Army officer; this happened many decades ago.  Jane was commissioned a lieutenant, received a secret clearance, performed well, and years later was considered for the rank of Brigadier General.  When leaders lie bad things can happen because the lie, just as likely, will follow them forever.

To be promoted from Colonel to Brigadier General involves a much greater level of scrutiny via a more thorough scrub of one’s background.  During the background check on Jane, it was discovered that she had been arrested and convicted for drunk driving, underage drinking, and misconduct while intoxicated.  The U.S. military leadership considers untrustworthiness more serious than bad behavior (in most cases).  Jane was forced to prematurely retire from the Army because she lied on her original application.

Politicians have long been given a greater latitude in what they say regarding the truth than most of us, especially Army officers, yet the idea remains the same.  If you lie, you will be caught and while the results are often less severe the pain will not disappear into the past.  It’s the American way that we value integrity and honesty.  We not only talk about “fairness” and “equality” we also practice what we preach.

A more public and current example involves the recent Twitter storm from U.S. President Donald Trump who blasted U.S. Congressman Richard Blumenthal.1  By way of full disclosure, I’ve had several conversations with Congressman Blumenthal and he is a big supporter of the U.S. military; much more than the average politician from the Northeast United States.2

“Interesting to watch Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut talking about hoax Russian collusion when he was a phony Vietnam con artist!  Never in U.S. history has anyone lied or defrauded voters like Senator Richard Blumenthal.  He told stories about his Vietnam battles and … conquests, how brave he was, and it was all a lie.  He cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness like a child.  Now he judges collusion?” – U.S. President Donald Trump, August 7, 2017, Twitter

This came on the heels after Senator Blumenthal voiced support for the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.  He also expressed concern about the Justice Department’s increased focus on finding who is responsible for leaking information that is damaging to President Trump.

The senator should take heed to the sage advice that if you live in a glass house, it is best not to throw stones.3  Leaders should take this incident to heart when they feel they need to exaggerate, enhance, or pad their past accomplishments (we simply call it lying).  Someone in the future will call them on it; as the case here.  Better to be a plain Jane and mediocre, than a high flying, lying success story.

Senator Blumenthal had enough moral courage to push back on the president but his lie, from long ago, continues to haunt him to this day.  To him it was just a little lie, but a little lie or a big lie, it is still a lie and tells us about the character of that person.

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  1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/08/07/trump-renews-attack-on-democratic-senator-calling-him-a-vietnam-con-artist-on-twitter/?utm_term=.a19378f86c72
  2. I even have photos of him, my wife, and myself together at a going away ceremony of an Army Reserve unit out of his state Connecticut.
  3. President Trump may have exaggerated here a bit. Senator Blumenthal did lie about his service in Vietnam.  But I don’t think he told stories about his Vietnam battles or crying about it when caught.


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

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