Recently, with an upward potential of $300 million (+ or – a few hundred million,) our nation’s leadership unveiled healthcare.gov. It was to be the saving grace for all of our insurance woes, however, it’s a nightmarish blunder. Fundamentally, the program is doomed from a simple mathematics standpoint, but that’s not the purpose of this post. After the unveiling of the website, it was evident that it could not perform the most basic of its functionalities. The White House claims they had no idea the website was not ready to go live, but now it’s becoming evident that many knew, even top administration staff. That is a scandal, just without lingerie.
When scandals break, everyone always asks, “How could all of this be going on and the leaders not be aware?” While the answers may differ from molestation in the football locker room to the unveiling of the useless website, I believe most times the answer can be found with King Ahab who wanted to go to war badly, but under the suggestion of King Jehoshaphat, they asked about 400 prophets and all of them said, “The Lord will give you victory!” It’s the oldest example of being surrounded by ‘yes-men’ that I am aware of. With only one more prophet Micaiah to question, “the messenger who went to get Micaiah said to him, ‘Look, all the prophets are promising victory for the king. Be sure that you agree with them and promise success’ (1 Kings 22:13). In other words, only give the king good news and nothing that differs from the king’s agenda. Today’s version of this story would be, “Don’t tell the President that the website is a $300 million piece of crap.” This type of culture is a ticking time bomb for scandals and is created by the leadership.
Leaders must be willing to hear and react to difficult information that is not in line with their agenda. Not doing so is operating in denial. Thankfully Micaiah understood the importance of being a realist, saying, “As surely as the Lord lives, I will say only what the Lord tells me to say” (1 Kings 22:14). Often, leaders’ ceilings are a direct result of their ability to deal with reality. Lesson to be learned: operate like Michaiah, and be willing to hear, speak, acknowledge, and confront reality.