“Leaders Are Surrounded By Liars” – Manfred Kets de Vries


One of the fundamental facets or facts associated with the concept of leadership ever postulated or advanced by Manfred Kets de Vries is the above caption “Leaders are surrounded by liars” This quotation because of its applicability throughout all ages has so much caught my attention for which I want to expand my opinion or understanding of this quotation so as to enlighten those of you in leadership.

To begin with, the definition of who is a leader according to literature reviews is too copious. Let’s look at few. A leader is a person who influences a group of people towards a specific result.  According to Peter Northouse, a leader is also a person who influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. In the words of Joel baker, a leader is someone who takes you to a place you wouldn’t go by yourself.  By analysis, all of these definitions have one basic fact in common. That is to influence. In other words, influence that appears in all of the definitions suggests a fundamental traits or distinct feature of a leader. It is this influence that a leader uses to take his follower to any place that he or she will not want to go by him/her-self.

Leaders are found in Government, Politics, Religion, Education, Sports, Civil society and he list goes on.  They are the ones that make critical decisions germane to organizational or societal achievement. For example, in government or political setting, leaders make appointments, changes that largely impact the society and also achievements or failures.

Let’s now look at liars.  The simplest or down to earth definition is a person who has lied or who lies repeatedly. With close reference to Manfred Kets de Vries quotation, it can be inferred that these liars that surround leaders are not just ordinary people. They are the very confidants, advisors; probably close relatives that on a daily basis sit in the company of a leader. These are people a leader quick to trust. They play key role in influencing decisions taken by leaders. They managed to have won the trust and confidence of the leader from factual information that positively influenced decisions or changes.

These are people who because of the trust and confidence the leader impose in them now utilize it as a weakness of that leader to get at those that stepped on their toes or want to get even with them. They are also the very ones that do all within the realm of power to sometimes prevent those the leader want to see but bring others the leader don’t want to see. They are the very ones that contribute to the failures of the leader because of the lies.  This is why John C. Maxwell being cognizant about the impact of Manfred Kets de Vries cautions, emphatically postulated that “A good leader encourages followers to tell him what he needs to know, not what he wants to hear”. It may be fairly right or reasonable to equate not what a leader wants to hear to the lies or so called gossip that connotes danger. Invariably, what a leader needs to know from his confidants, advisors or close relatives are the very things that influence success or achievements.

Please note or know that not every confidant, advisor or close relatives to a leader are liars. There are some good ones that mean well for the success or achievements of the leader. But main message that need to get across is that, one of the reasons that account for leadership failures arguably stems from the liars that leaders are surrounded by. When any leader act on the basis of lies to make changes in government or Institutions, by the time he gets to realize, it may be too late to stop or arrest the inevitable consequences.

Arguably, there is a tendency for the lies to germinate seeds of enmity between the leader and those lied on or affected by the lies as a result of the leader perceived threats. Probably this could be one of the reasons why Samuel K. Doe acted on the information from John G. Ramsey to change the position of Thomas Quiwonkpa, the former Commanding General of the Armed Forces of Liberia and also one of the key members of the 1980 military coup to Secretary of the People Redemption Council. Quiwonkpa interpreted Doe’s decision to have meant not only demotion but also total isolation that resulted into enmity and consequently forced Quiwonkpa to exile due to his perceived fear.

From this example, can we now see the danger that Samuel K. Doe did not realize at the time he probably acted on the basis of perceived threats due to what he may have heard from John G. Ramsey as confidant or some kind of advisor that could not be verified as postulated by John C. Maxwell? It is not a wrong thing or mistake for leaders to listen to confidants, advisors or close relatives, what make it a terrible mistake is the failure of the leader to just give face value to whatever that is being said by confidants, advisors, close relatives or friends. Leaders must do all within the powers to determine the veracity of what is being said about others.

In conclusion, leaders beware of the liars that surround you. They pretend to be loyal so as to accomplish their hidden agenda at the detriment of your success or achievements.

About the Author:
Mr. Ambrues M. Nebo holds MSc in the top 5 % of the graduating Class in Peace and Conflict studies with specialty in Humanitarian and Refugee Studies form University of Ibadan, Nigeria, Post Graduate Certificate with distinction in Public Administration from Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration Ghana, BA Hon (Magna Cum Laude) in Sociology from African Methodist Episcopal Zion University College  in Liberia and various International Certificates in peacekeeping operations  from Kofi Anna International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Ghana. He has authored a dozen of articles dealing with contemporary issues in Africa and Liberia in which some of his articles (Stop Pointing Fingers at the West for Political Problems in Africa, Is Prolonged Regime, a Recipe for Potential Problems in Africa? and Instead of the International Criminal Court, blame our Leaders) can be accessed online at google search