Leaders Must be Willing to Face Evil

By | July 31, 2020

[July 31, 2020]  Multiple times throughout my blog, I define leadership as the ability to get people to do things they would not ordinarily do and to do those things because they want to do them.1  That, however, is only half of what great leadership is about.  Great leadership also means to know evil and face evil; only by doing so can each person play their part in a better world.

No, No …. I’m not philosophical, although some will make that argument.  I’m very practical here.  Those of us who are young, whether a leader or not, must come to terms that we know very little about the world.  So much so that we could argue we are but mere pawns on the world stage.  Yet, through good mentorship, humility, and hard work to reinforce our character, can we gradually develop to the point that we make a significant contribution to our families, communities, and to our culture.

“I don’t think that you have any insight whatsoever into your capacity for good until you have some well-developed insight into your capacity for evil.” – Prof. Jordan Peterson

From the time we are a child on the playground where the symbolic evil in the bully threatens us, start the process of building our ability to be a good person begins.  Our parents are our first mentors.  They are the ones who encourage, teach, and coach us, and also push us out into the world because we would be harmed otherwise.  At some point, our parents will no longer help us.  It is when they know that we can solve our own problems.  And, eventually, we can help those who need help, but only mature support like our parents provided us.

“No tree can grow to Heaven unless its roots reach down to Hell.” – Carl Gustav Jung

That is why I will argue that we must learn to distinguish evil from good.  Those who are familiar with the Bible can testify that much of what is written in both the Old and New Testaments is an attempt to do just that.  The proverbial question that we all ask is, how do we discover such a difference.  And, that is the meta stories of biblical Adam and Eve in the Garden and Budda’s quest for understanding life’s limitations found in his father’s walled garden.2

Each leader must make the unknown our friend.  There are a lot more things we don’t know than we do know.  The things we don’t know is the birthplace of all our new knowledge.  So, if we make the things we don’t know our “friend,” rather than the things we know, then we will always be on a quest for good.  This is an entirely different way of looking at the world and the antithesis of ideologies.

Thanks for reading my post today.  I’ve tried to develop a newer and better explanation of leadership.  I began with the idea that my definition of great leadership was lacking.  I proposed that only by facing evil can leadership genuinely develop, and that starts with the recognition of evil within each of us.


  1. https://www.theleadermaker.com/what-is-leadership/
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRoRLWuzSL8
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.

23 thoughts on “Leaders Must be Willing to Face Evil

  1. Jerome Smith

    Gen. Satterfield wrote an article about EVIL that I liked and is appropriate here for discussion.
    “Can We Distinguish Between Good and Evil?”
    Here is what Gen. Satterfield wrote, “Recent U.S. socialist-like movements (e.g., Antifa, KKK, Black Liberation Army, American Communist Party) are based on the idea that the American capitalist system is both corrupt and gives preferential (unfair and discriminatory) treatment to individual races of people. “

  2. The Kid 1945

    If you want to “see” evil at work, just go to Gen. Satterfield’s Daily Favorites page and read about them. Today’s reading is especially apropos. As he shows us in two articles, our Hollywood elites (not intellectually elite, mind you) are sharing their distorted view of reality. Makes them “feel” better with their virtue signaling. How INFANTILE?

    1. Tomas C. Clooney

      Kid, spot-on with your comment. We sadly have encouraged infantile behavior and thinking among our young. This is one of the results. We should not be protecting our children so much because that ultimately corrupts them.

  3. Anita

    Enjoyed today’s article so thanks. Scared me a bit, however. I’m also glad that you expanded upon your definition of leadership to include facing evil.

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      Anita, this is a crucial point in Gen. Satterfield’s point about what leadership is (or is not). I was caught off guard when I read it originally and went back to re-read the article. Evil is a necessary part of leadership. Face it or you are no leader.

  4. Scotty Bush

    Good article, Gen. Satterfield — timely and on-target.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      That’s why we are here…to read about the pressing issues of leadership, the risks and the rewards. But, more than anything I believe those who are leaders have a moral duty to perform for all those that follow them, to be humble in their leadership gifts, and care for others. The other path – which is evil – does harm to us all.

  5. Dennis Mathes

    At Yale, psychologist Stanley Milgram wanted to test whether it could really be true that if ordinary people are ordered to do evil things by an authoritative figure, they will do it. In this famous 1961 experiment he discovered the answer and was shocked to learn the would follow orders that resulted in evil coming out.

  6. Randy Goodman

    The age-old question of whether evil is a psychological trait that lies dormant in all of us received renewed attention after the war. The World War II, Nuremberg War Criminal trials, which lasted from November 20, 1945 to Oct 1, 1946. A common defense given by former Nazis accused of involvement in the Holocaust was that they were just following orders from their superiors.

    1. Benny

      Soviet leaders should have also been standing trial. They killed more than the Nazis ever did. And our current crop of stupid politicians have no clue about this historical fact and when they admit it, the deaths of over a hundred million people in the 20th century are just another cost of doing business with the devil.

      1. Janna Faulkner

        Yes, Greg and I was happy then as now that he did so.

      2. Wilson Cox

        While this was not spectacularly brave decision, it did show moral character and that is what we want in our leaders.

    1. Shawn C. Stolarz

      I vote YES, Facebook/Twitter/other social media are a drug that is addicting and will steal your thoughts.

  7. Valkerie

    General Satterfield, excellent blog post on one of my favorite subjects to study EVIL.

    1. Kenny Foster

      Valkerie, good luck with that. Most folks don’t want to look evil in the eye because they may see their own reflection there. I would hope you might someday come back here and give us a little taste of what your findings are on the idea of evil. Philosophers have had to deal with the issue a very long time and there is some great writings about evil and its impacts. Good luck.

  8. Army Captain

    Having spent about a decade in the military and being a combat veteran, I can say without thinking too hard on it, that we humans must first face our own potential for evil and learn to keep it from coming out and destroying those around us and us too.

  9. Ed Berkmeister

    Hmmm, is the New York Times or the mayor of NYC … EVIL? Or are they just stupid? Or maybe something else. Thanks Gen. Satterfield. Great work on this article. Great leaders face evil.

    1. Nick Lighthouse

      NYC Mayor de Blasio is a useful idiot to his neo-Marxist masters. He is a moral coward in every sense of the word and believes he knows all and can do all. Oh, we call that ‘privilege.’


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