The report on Penn State, Sandusky and his heinous behavior started me thinking again about complicity and the responsibility of leaders, especially gifted, charismatic leaders. The greater the gift, the greater the responsibility to ensure what is good and right prevails over that which is wrong and evil.
Because behavior modeling – copying someone else’s behavior – is the most basic and fundamental way that humans learn, the behavior of those in positions of influence is especially critical. Followers take their cue from their leader. If a leader can’t handle the responsibility commensurate with their gifts, they should step aside.
Someone recently reminded me of the scene from the 1987 movie Broadcast News where Aaron Altman (the talented but not handsome TV reporter played by Albert Brooks) says “What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he’s around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I’m semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing…he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance…just a tiny bit.”
It is NEVER ok for children to be molested by adults, even when a charismatic leader or powerful institution allows it to happen. Never.
You probably won’t face anything as serious as child rape in your career but may see other forms of unethical behavior in your organization that you believe are wrong. Speak up and attempt to change the situation. And if that fails, you can leave. Doing nothing makes you complicit. Staying involved with and supporting an organization that allows wrongdoing makes you complicit.
I quit a good job over an incident of dishonesty. No one – my bosses, their boss or anyone up the ladder seemed bothered by what happened and basically ignored it. I decided not to be part of an organization so loosey-goosey on ethics. But that’s a topic for another blog post.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)
What do you think?