Plausible Denial aka The Cancer Of Leadership

No matter the headline, no matter the scandal, no matter how few or how many might be involved, one thing will become crystal clear: nobody that should have known – will have known.

There was a time when this art form of creating circumstances as to protect people of influence had its place and was used sparingly and tactfully. However, as of today both the frequency along with how and where it is used has gone from “useful ruse” to a downright childish alibi. No one seems to be accountable today. And I mean nobody!

The phrase plausible denial used to be a generic term with meaning given almost exclusively to the president for matters of state where an offer or position in a cabinet (or other such actions) if turned down by the recipient wouldn’t (or couldn’t) be used by the press as some bludgeoning tool where headlines might read: “Mr. or Mrs. Hornblower tells president to take the offer and stuff it.” This same inspired headline could be (or would be) used when difficult negotiations were taking place between foreign leaders. No one begrudged such use.

The plausible denial ruse is and continues to be an important tool. There is a time and a place for such a thing and sometimes it is the most prudent depending on circumstances. Yet, what we are currently witnessing is a far cry from what we’ve known before. Now everyone is using it. So much so it might be time to ask if this once tried and true tactic has “jumped the shark?”

Currently there seems to be numerous scandals (whether one agrees or disagrees) involving the political class. No matter the press conference, hearing rooms, and more, one thing has become apparent: No one knows anything, and no one was aware such problems existed. Even if they were directly responsible for the organization.

Anything and everything that may have transpired dubious in nature happened without their knowledge even though many of these same people were hired exclusively to fix said problems. Absolutely amazing.

This phenom is not something exclusive to the political class. No, no, far from it. This also permeates through our corporate culture where CEO’s and more seemingly have no clue that potentially illegal or at the least improper actions are taking place within their own corporate structure.

We watch, hear, or read CEO’s of banks take to the media to express outrage when it’s pointed out that their highly profitable (for some most) department or subsidiary is found to have been “cooking the books” or engaging in highly immoral or in complete disregard of fiduciary responsibilities.

Suddenly they are shocked. Shocked! That such could be taking place under their tutelage. A commanding statement is formulated that heads will roll. Yet, the only thing that seems to roll is what we all know rolls down hill. It never seems to be their fault even though that profit entry on the balance sheet was probably heralded on every conference call as to show why they deserve the millions upon millions of dollars in compensation.

I find it ironic how so many so-called “brilliant” CEO’s had no knowledge how these once “profit centers” were raking in that profit. Because now those very same “profits” are costing share holders Billions upon Billions of dollars for legal fines and penalties. Nobody at the C level cared to ask “How in the world are we able to be making this amount of money?”

Nope, they didn’t want to know it seems. And in days gone by that would be seen as a dereliction of duty by any C level executive worth their salt and worthy of dismissal. Today? It seems to be a badge of honor. i.e., They showed if a scandal breaks their fingers will be nowhere near it. That deserves a raise in compensation for if there’s one thing we want in out bankers is to show not only financial brilliance, but brilliance in skullduggery to boot!

Again this isn’t an isolated indecent to just a few sectors. It’s happening across nearly everything and everyone we come in contact with.

Companies farm out their production to countries where it is obvious to any business person that something is awry with how they can make a product so much cheaper than someone else. Forced labor, child labor, environmental disregards, illegal use of unsafe chemicals (just to name a few) are many times the underlying reasons why something can be produced so much cheaper. Yet, as long as they don’t ask – they didn’t know.

We’ll only know if someone gets sick, hurt, or worse – dies. Then we can go back to: “They didn’t know, but now since we do, they’ll change it.”

When something is known to cost $1.00 to produce even within competitive labor environments such as Asia. When someone states they can do it for not just less, but let’s say: a nickel. It has to set off bells all the way up the chain.

Those bells should be seen for what any business person worth their salt  instinctively recognizes them as: Alarm bells! Not bells signalling an all clear to raid the compensation pool.

Leadership is not something left to what many deem as the “elites” of society. No, leadership is something that starts with us and ends with all of  us. For one must remember the person at the top is only a person. And how that person conducts themself and takes ownership of their decisions and/or actions is no different from you or me. The only difference is the size of the stage.

Just imagine where we would be if the people responsible for giving and carrying out the orders to storm the beaches at Normandy played by the so-called accepted rules or premises shown by a great many today.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr