Is it Possible to Lead Without Lies?

These days, plastic has invaded everything in such a way that a few brave – with a lot of suffering, so it is said – presume to live without plastic. They appear on television reports working like fools not to use a single plastic wrap throughout the day. You have to admire their discipline and their fervor. But more what’s more admirable is that they seem to without lies, don’t you think?

I am often surprised at how the amount of plastic wrap I have to remove from any product I purchase to use or eat has increased in the past years, I find that the lies to cover records have also been increasing gradually. Or perhaps they have only been modernized and scaled to a new dimension thanks to technology. Can you lead companies or countries #withoutlies in the era of #fakenews?

Recently a client told me how sick and tired she was having to play the game of photos and events to maintain her reputation as a credible executive and top council member. Fulanita, we will call her, is a woman with a professional career of over thirty years in which she has had to risk everything more than once to maintain her integrity and be faithful to her sense of duty. But for some years she lives divided between what she wants to be and what she has to be. And she is not the only one.

Fulanita escapes to make long trips until the end of the world three times a year. She leaves Madrid every weekend to enjoy the mountains or the beach compulsively like there’s no tomorrow. Her other self fulfills her duties as an executive and council member, Monday to Friday. So far everything sounds normal. The problem is that she often has to bite her tongue in critical meetings for not earning a reputation as a fighter. Or she should sit down to eat, smile and make conversation with other executives or advisors, even when we all know about their nepotisms, their twisted smiles, their abuses of power.

Fulanita tells me that she envies how well another important director moves, who we will call Menganita. Fulanita admires how well Menganita endures upheavals at her own events, like when certain “fluid” moral executives come to steal clients from Menganita’s carefully selected guests. Liars, businessmen who take advantage of situations, whose closest friends usually have that old look of white-collar criminals, and when they shake hands they take one arm and two legs.

I have witnessed Menganita in a row with an executive – full of noble titles, awards from magazines and various business awards – because she was teasing him with that dignified trust of having control of the situation: “because I am worth it ”they say shamelessly all their gestures just like the models of a well-known cosmetics advertisement.

Menganita chooses her battles. The necessary fights that she has entered to defend the truth, transparency, objectivity and justice have been expensive. They have had to pay with forced departures from prestigious positions, or the loss of juicy contracts. Or they have failed to stop publishing a sad review of their great achievements while they take a double-page report in color about how great it is to be a three time winner of the award “Best of all the best” of this magazine or that newspaper. Surely as you read this you remember all the Fulanitas, Menganitas and “fluid” executives – with or without titles – of your last ten years … this is not uncommon, and it is nothing new.

For many this is the price of doing business. It is the price that must be paid to belong to certain groups. It happens not only in elites, but all human groups have their little secrets and hidden exchanges. In all, a hierarchy of power has been set up, and in many, that hierarchy of power has resorted to poorly transparent practices that last for generations.

That is why it is much easier to live without plastics than to live without lies. Those who dare to challenge established orders must face the entire group that protects – and benefits – from the established order. You just have to walk around the Salamanca neighborhood to listen to the Chavista accent in any corner and see how that dirty money infiltrates the real estate economy of one of the most prosperous neighborhoods in Madrid.

But what is the price we pay for letting ourselves get into lies and infect the dirt of others? That price is not so obvious because it is not paid at the moment. We don’t stop earning money or receiving invitations to events immediately. No. We continue to play the game of lies unfolding in two, like Fulanita. We smile for the cover photo while holding the nausea inside. Nausea that grows year after year, looking for sedatives that placate the deep unease of knowing that one is more successful by lying and consenting than by what it really brings: alcohol, anxiolytics, drugs or sex, any compulsion that extinguishes that unpleasant feeling for a little while. Being a gigantic Fake.

Being a Fake also means living constantly with the fear of being discovered. It is a snowball that meets one, and then another, and rolls more and more in a frightful viscosity that shows in various faces and is seen in the look, especially the ones that hide it. It is a road that never ends well. Although one arrives at the grave with such a legacy rotting his soul, the physical and emotional memory that leaves his heirs oozing the same secret guilt. See the number of lavish heirs whose lives have been so spoiled that they have compensated themselves without warning.

Leading without lies is for the brave. It takes a lot of courage to fight the leader “because I am worth it” and lose everything in front of his army of liars and coverts. It takes very, very large hearts to bear the suffering, the misfortunes and the subtle – sometimes voracious! – humiliations that fall to those who question corrupt hierarchies …

And in a world dominated by twitter, Facebook, armies of bots programmed to spread hoaxes, or the new “Deep fakes” (technology capable of imitating the voice and gestures of a public personality in a video saying or doing something unimaginable), living without lies becomes a desperate adventure for sad dreamers or crazy people without dropping dead.

He aquí donde la poesía y los cuentos de héroes de toda la vida atrapan la política de altos vuelos y la élite ejecutiva del IBEX35 o el Forbes500. Donde todos los hombres somos iguales de nuevo. Donde nos definimos por nuestros actos y por nuestras omisiones. Más frente a nosotros mismos que frente a cualquier otro. Y donde todos, más aún los más villanos, admiramos profundamente a quienes se atrevieron a decir o hacer la verdad y sufrir las consecuencias.

This is where poetry and tales of lifelong heroes catch the high flying politicians and the elite IBEX35 executives or the Forbes500. Where all men are equal again. Where we define ourselves by our actions and by our omissions. More in front of ourselves than in front of any other. And where we all, even more so the villains, deeply admire those who dared to tell the truth or live truthfully and suffer the consequences.

For those who have made it this far in this article and have chosen to be heroes, I leave you with this song by the Mexican group Elefantes (“Soy Así”, available on Youtube):

“Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, but I prefer to be shipwrecked than never to leave the port. And I’m like that, just like you. I want to die trying again. I want to live and never regret it. Never more!”

 


Pino Bethencourt 
Coach and founder of the Club Comprometidos