Michael J. Kerrigan


Last post I suggested ethics and effectiveness were two criteria of good leadership. Also discussed was the impact of Machiavelli on leadership. Probing deeper into another insight of Machiavelli, in this instance, his endorsement of the art of deception… (”You must be a great liar… a deceitful man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived,” *) how then do leadership scholars deal with lying in the context of their ethics criteria?

While lying may be useful to get ahead and is commonplace in today’s culture, one would think lying is a point of divergence between leadership and character scholars. Recently, I came across a study that may tell it all, namely: “Nobody Likes a Rat, On the Willingness to Report Lies and the Consequences Thereof.”**

Do you think we would need the Securities and Exchange Commission if corporations never misstated their financial statements? As James Madison stated in Federalist 51, “if men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Since angels do not govern men, as Lenin wrote in1902, “What is to be done?”

This is not to suggest character scholars become the vanguard of the working class. Rather I ask my character scholar friends, since lying has become normative, how might they help our leadership scholars teach leadership without violating the seventh commandment?

  • * See: “Was Machiavelli Right? Lying in Negotiation and the Art of Defensive Self-help,” Ohio Journal on Dispute Resolution 24 no. 3 (2009)
  • ** Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 93 September 2013

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