Leaders are very important people in our society. But as with any important person they are often held to a different standard than “normal” people. The standard types of leaders are held to is often a higher one, but sometimes that standard can actually be a little fuzzy. In many cases it is often deemed ok for leaders to lie or withhold information from the people they are in charge of. This type of Scenario is referred to as a “Noble Lie”. The noble Lie was a concept introduced by Plato that he described as “the fostering of such a belief (that) will make them care more for the city and for one another….and lead them forth under the command of their rulers” (Plato, Republic Book III). Most leaders will try to use a noble lie to get the best out of a situation. In order to do that it often means withholding information, if not outright lying about situations. So in order for a plan to work, or for a plan to work with the least resistance they will employ a noble lie. Of course, these types of scenarios do affect how followership views their leaders. And while a noble lie can sometimes be necessary to maintain order how followers will react may be either positive or negative. And this reaction of the followers tends to dictate how leadership will operate moving forward.
Many times, a noble lie ends in a good scenario. It is most frequently resolved when those in power leak the details of the truth behind the lie. In these situations, leadership can paint what they’ve done in the most positive light possible. Situations that often fall under this kind of criteria involve military operations, behind closed door trade deals, facts about scenarios that may cause mass public panic etc. And when the people find out about this kind of lie it is often from the mouths of the leaders themselves. At this point leaders are able paint a picture of their lie with hindsight in the mirror. This allows them to justify their actions to the public and have the public support them. Success is very important for a positive public reaction because without it the leadership has no way to justify their actions leading up to the revelation of the lie.
There are however times where the reaction to a noble lie is negative. When a negative reaction occurs, it can be for several reasons. The two most common are a forcible revelation of the truth and revelation of the truth that comes after a failure. Often in these situations arise for the same reasons that a noble lie that ends in a positive reaction arise from. The only difference is how the public finds out. When the leadership is unprepared with the truth being leaked, or they have no results. This will often result in a negative reaction because it causes people to lose faith in their leaders. When leaders lose the faith of their followers it can often result in them losing their position.
One of the most important things for leaders is perception. If their followers stop believing in them they lose the ability to lead effectively. Noble lies can be effective tools in being a god leader, but they must be used carefully. Lying is a tricky art. Often times “lying becomes easier and easier and can become habitual. Then there’s a real risk… pretty soon, lying becomes normalized” (Garcia, Dangers of Dishonesty). So a leader must be careful when using lies to lead their followers. IF they use lies ineffectively, they often can lose all their power as a leader. Being a good leader doesn’t mean not lying to your followers, it means knowing when to lie, and how (not if) they come clean. It is important for leaders to be “concerned with how the leader affects followers and that without influence, leadership does not exist” (Northouse, Leadership).
Plato. (n.d.). The Republic: Book III. Retrieved March 15, 2019 from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1497/1497-h/1497-h.htm#link2H_4_0006 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications
Garcia, H. F. (n.d.). The Dangers Of Dishonesty. Forbes. Retrieved March 15, 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/03/27/the-dangers-of-dishonesty/#5c104805455c (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..