distortion of truth unquintessential leaderA couple of things have happened in February 2015 that have really made it obvious how thoroughly entrenched unquintessential leaders are in our society and how few quintessential leaders actually exist.

These two things may look like they are completely unrelated on the surface, but in fact they both underline how extant hypocrisy, revisionist history, and distortion are within the very fabric of our society.

That, to date, no one has looked at the big picture and connected the dots in any of these things to show the trifecta of unquintessential leadership – hypocrisy, revisionist history, and distortion – is a testimony that quintessential leaders are almost nonexistent on this planet.

revisionist-history-unquintessential-leaderThat is tragic and disappointing for us both as human beings and as people in leadership positions.

hypocrisy unquintessential leaderIt is disappointing because it highlights our own propensity to be hypocritical, to indulge in revisionist history, and not only distort the truth ourselves, but also to accept and buy into the distortion of truth in the place of truth. It is tragic because we don’t even seem to realize it or, if we do, we simply don’t care.

One thing where the unquintessential leadership of hypocrisy, revisionist history, and distortion have been front and center is the outrage over remarks that President Obama made during the National Prayer Breakfast on February 5, 2015. 

President Obama accurately pointed out that while ISIS is doing horrible things to people in the name of Islam, Christians have, throughout history, done horrible things in the name of God and Jesus Christ, so – and he didn’t say this, but the implication was there – there should be a universal recognition that none of us is without sin and capable of throwing the first stone at others.

What he also didn’t say, despite all the “theologian” references that have been made to President Obama since then, is that we all have both a need for repentance from and atonement for our sins.

ku klux klan burning cross unquintessential leaderThe backlash started immediately because President Obama brought up three actual and documented sins perpetuated by Christianity and Christians against their fellow human beings: the Crusades (which were a series of European genocide campaigns against Islam documented throughout European literature, most notably in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales), the Western role in the American slave trade and slavery, and the post-Civil War history of harassing (at best), torturing, lynching, and in many cases, burning people of color by white supremacists, beginning with the Ku Klux Klan, predominantly in the American Bible Belt, continuing through the present in more subtle configurations and groups.

The hypocrites, revisionist historians, and distortionists claim that the comparison between sin in the name of Islam and sin in the name of Christianity is unfair and unjust. They also focus solely on the Crusades, completely ignoring any sins committed in the name of Jesus Christ after the 13th Century.

There seems to be an explicit rejection of the truth. Andrea Mitchell, on February 8, 2015’s Meet the Press, said “You don’t use the word Crusade in any context right now. It’s too fraught. And the week after a pilot is burned alive and a video shown, you don’t lean over backward to be philosophical about the sins of the fathers. You have to deal with issues that are in front of you or don’t deal with it at all.”

There also seems to be an explicit denial of the truth. Jon Meacham, on the same program, said that President Obama failed to mention that the Crusades were “an exception to a rule.”

As if the “exception” is okay. As if that is even the truth.

brian williams NBC newsThe other thing that has highlighted the hypocrisy, revisionist history, and distortion of unquintessential leadership that permeates modern society is the story of Brian Williams and NBC News

The fact that Brian Williams lied is not in dispute. He himself acknowledged that he lied. I agree that Brian Williams’ admission was not as straightforward as it could have and should have been. However, what sets Brian Williams apart from everyone else in his industry is that he admitted his wrong-doing and he apologized.

I think it’s entirely appropriate, as does Brian Williams, that he has been suspended from NBC News for six months without pay.

Yet, in spite of this rare case of owning up to and taking responsibility for his words and actions, Brian Williams has been vitriolically skewered and ridiculed across the board, by colleagues and American society alike.

This is where the hypocrisy, revisionist history, and distortion is most apparent.

Not one mention has been made of all the lies that were told both by the government and the media before the United States went to war with Iraq in 2003.

Not one mention has been made about all of Williams’ colleagues within the “news” business, which includes people like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill O’Reilly, who have been just as dishonest (sometimes much more pervasively), never admitting to, taking responsibility for, or being punished for their repeated acts of dishonesty.

Nor has there been any mention of NBC’s push of its news team, including Williams, to appear on other shows the network produces to “cross-promote” the network (this has become standard operation procedure at NBC, ABC, and CBS).

The revisionist history of NBC executives now criticizes these appearances outside of NBC News with NBC News president Deborah Turness’ statement in her February 10, 2015 memo announcing Williams’ suspension: “We have concerns about comments that occurred outside NBC News while Brian was talking about his experiences in the field.

And the distortion that has come from all sides that somehow Brian Williams’ lie is the worst act of dishonesty of all time is everywhere.

Let’s face it, folks. We’ve all been dishonest more times than any of us would like – and most of us, sadly, it seems, would be willing – to admit.

There’s no such thing as a bad lie, a good lie, a white lie, or a boldface lie. Lying is lying, no matter how we do it, and each lie we communicate however we communicate it is dishonest, damaging, destructive, and trust-breaking.

To not see ourselves and our own words and actions when we’ve been dishonest, even if it didn’t affect millions of people, is hypocritical, revisionist history (our own), and distorted. In fact, it is the same thing that Williams did: it’s dishonest.

We all have a natural tendency toward the unquintessential leadership trifecta of hypocrisy, revisionist history, and distortion. It seems to be wired into our very character from the get-go. 

However, as quintessential leaders, we should be striving to remove the hypocrisy and replace it with authenticity. We should be striving to remove the revisionist historian that often becomes our public voice and replace it with the genuine historian that is always our voice. And we should be striving to remove the distortion – spinning, angling, omitting, etc. – that clouds or obscures reality with the truth.

How are we doing?



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