[April 25, 2018] This may seem counterintuitive, but it is possible – as a leader – you can be wrong, when you’re right. This is true even when standing up for the highest of moral values. Leaders must be aware of this and consciously take note of possible negative consequences.
We need first to remember that “right” and “wrong” is often in the eyes of the beholder; being heavily influenced by one’s culture. Yes, morality no longer fits into the box we created since the beginning of human civilization. But for our discussion today, that is not what I’m discussing.
My emphasis today will be on doing the right thing and yet being wrong at the same time. This is not something so simple as doing the right thing and hurting someone’s feelings (that is not wrong in the true sense of things). Here is a short story to illustrate.
A few years ago while I was in South Korea, three U.S. Air Force sergeants were arrested by the Korean National Police (KNP) for “assaulting” a South Korean man. This is a serious charge and includes jail time if convicted. It would also mean the end of their careers as airmen in the U.S. Air Force.
But were the sergeants wrong? In the eyes of the KNP, the assault on a citizen of their country was an open and shut case. They had violated several laws and were jailed briefly while the U.S. Embassy was contacted. To the KNP, the sergeants were wrong.
What was the back-story? The three sergeants were walking in downtown Seoul, looking for a place to eat. Each had been in South Korea for over six months, so they knew the culture and how to properly respect the people and laws. While walking in front of a restaurant they saw a man beating on a woman. They jumped to her defense, pulling the man off of her and preventing a savage beating. They were right to assist her.
The problem? It was the woman’s husband and he is allowed to beat her if he so wishes. Of course, they didn’t know it was her husband; they only knew they had to protect her. There were witnesses and so the KNP was called to arrest them.
The three USAR sergeants were wrong, despite the fact they were right.
Leaders who are aware of such contradictions must communicate this to their folks as part of a formal education campaign. Using examples, such as this one, will make it much easier to understand and apply in day-to-day circumstances.
You can be wrong, when you’re right.