INC magazine once opined the greatest need of a CEO from those under his charge, let alone from his or her second in command, was honesty, not loyalty.
To challenge the status quo; to think outside the box; to color beyond the lines; to rock the boat; to question authority; to bring power to account; to play – nay, play for keeps when it’s not a game – devil’s advocate, how much better these than to go-along-to-get-along; to second that motion without following discussion; to get, and stay, in line like dominoes hoping no one – to mix metaphors – upsets the apple cart or suggests the emperor has no clothes.
If only honesty, not loyalty, had described “16 of the nation’s top snow boarders and skiers” near Steven’s Pass that fateful day when “no one gave voice to their worry” of the snow conditions prior to their decent. But no one did and, as described by authors Brett and Kate McKay in their article “Are You a Sheep or a Sheepdog?” they “triggered a massive avalanche; 7,000 cubic meters and 11 million pounds of snow began a ferocious 70mph slide down the mountain. Five members of the group were swept up in it, three of which were gruesomely pummeled and killed.”
If only honesty, not loyalty, or, more accurately someone – anyone – paying attention, Cameron Maybin (who readers may have seen inserted into the Huston Astros lineup in the seventh game of their just completed World Series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers) would not have been allowed to walk to first base on ball three in the top of the fifth during the San Diego Padres game against the Seattle Mariners, July 2, 2011, a game the Mariners would lose, 1-0 (Maybin went on to score), because everyone – everyone except Maybin that is – had lost track of the count.
Had loyalty, not honesty, described Wilfred Burchett, would we have his “warning to the world” account in the London “Daily Express” of the horrors of Hiroshima – of “radiation poisoning, whose existence was denied by the occupation authorities” after the atomic bombing given he “slipped the leash” as he put it, declining to join the hundreds of journalists who were “shepherded to the largely theatrical surrender ceremony” – speaking of sheep vs. sheepdog – and embarked instead “on a perilous journey to a place now engraved in the human consciousness”? (John Pilger, “Tell Me No Lies”)
No, we would not.
That’s why fear of offending that does not rebuke a friend is not just objectionable, it’s despicable. Certainly, it cannot be called love.
When there is good reason for openness, when something important is after all at stake, “plain speaking will bravely censure a fault and will dare to correct what is wrong.”
It was Cicero who said, “When a man’s ears are shut against the truth, so that he cannot hear the truth from a friend, the welfare of such a one is hopeless.”
“Shrewd also is the observation of Cato, that some are better served by bitter enemies than by friends who seem to be agreeable; for the former often speak the truth, the latter never…. As therefore both to give and receive advice is the characteristic of true friendship.
“It should be considered that there is no deadlier bane to friendship than adulation, fawning, and flattery.”