Does Deceit Show Poor Judgment?

I go back and forth on the most important characteristic for leadership. Sometimes I know it is good judgment. Other times I’m just as certain it’s integrity.

I understand that both are vital but if one of them must be first then which one is it?

Someone recently asked me a question that causes me to think that one of those characteristics, or rather, the lack of one of those characteristics, proves the other is missing too.

The question was this: Which causes the failure of more leaders, mistakes of judgment or the deceptiveness of the leader?

I can certainly think of many leadership failures caused by poor judgment. Those judgment errors have resulted in interminable calamities, both for the leader and their organizations. But if we’re talking about just the pure number of leadership failures then you would have to say more are caused, perhaps far more, by the leader’s deceptiveness.

When you actually stop to think about it most of the deceptions and lies put forth by a failed leader where to cover up some other episode of poor judgment. The problem is the deception most often is worse than the original poor judgment.

If the leader would have just stepped up and admitted to the poor judgment they likely, or at least possibly, could have survived the situation. The original poor judgment, when compounded with the attempt to deceive will almost certainly lead to the downfall of the leader.

That being the case it seems clear to me that lack of integrity causes more leadership failures. It also likely causes more problems for the organization of the deceptive leader.

But then again, if the leader had great judgment they might not have any reason to deceive.

This seems a bit like the “chicken or the egg” question. So what say you?

4 thoughts on “Does Deceit Show Poor Judgment?

  1. Mark Dooley says:

    Deception is a sign of poor ethics. My thoughts are that people want to see the best in everyone. Yes there are those who will always be negative, that is life. However, from my personal experiences, mistakes are going to happen when people are involved in a process. This includes those people who are in positions of authority with the opportunity to exercise leadership. These mistakes could be the result of bad judgment and that is a painful lesson for any person. But the deceitfulness of “covering up”, “passing blame” or any other means of deception is just morally and unethically unacceptable. As I started, people want the best from everyone, that leads to forgiveness. And forgiveness is easier when the person accepts their mistake, identifies the mistake as a learning opportunity and then shares that learning opportunity with others. By sharing learning opportunities with others is how a person becomes identified as “leader”. But the person that shows deception is often just a person in a position of authority, and there are not any “followers”.

    My Monday morning two cents.

    • That’s a pretty good two cents Mark! I agree with you 100%, when integrity is absent so is the opportunity to truly lead.

      Too many people who hold leadership positions miss that all important fact.

      • Mark Dooley says:

        Thanks Steve. You set out the soap box, I felt obligated to stand on it. Thank you for the thought provoking blogs.

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