Friday, May 30, 2008

Integrity Versus Loyalty

"No one questioned my loyalty to the president when I was there, but there's a higher loyalty, there's a higher loyalty to the truth, it's a loyalty to the values I was raised upon, which are speaking up, which are making a positive difference."
- Scott McClellan in interview with ABC News White House Correspondent Martha Raddatz

What an appropriate and timely subject!

It reminds me of a time, several years ago, when the entire management staff of a company I worked for held a workshop designed to build teamwork and common goals.
One session in particular was an exercise that asked each participant to 'rate' a list several abstract virtues, which included integrity and loyalty among others.
I happened to be seated at a table, right next to the big boss, who took note of the fact that I had rated integrity ahead of loyalty.
He actually disagreed, because he chose to value company loyalty above all else in an employee.
I tried to explain that I felt that loyalty could be blind, that one had to be real careful of where they placed their highest allegiance and priority, that loyalty was important but there are also more important values.
I might as well have saved my breath, particularly to that individual, who happened to be my boss.
And, you know, I still believe integrity is the more valuable and lasting trait, simply because it is so closely connected to truth, upon which anything that is really important ultimately depends.

So, I am not surprised when Scott McClellan -or anyone- has the same epiphany.
Like most people, I only knew of Mr McClellan through the high visibility his office as Press Secretary to the President afforded him.
He was obviously trusted and highly paid to do as he was told.
At some point Scott realized that there were things more important than a job that required his blind and unquestioning subservience to presenting the information -not necessarily factually accurate- that he was given.
He began to feel he was being used and his personal integrity was being compromised in the process.
When the point was reached that the pain of this recognition became greater than the satisfaction of the reflected fame in which he basked, he made the decision to do something different.

While I hope the sales of his book are sufficient to provide him some measure of financial security, I'll bet the load off his conscience is worth far more!
I respect Scott for doing what he did, and for the reasons that were more important to him than blind loyalty.
We all have different circumstances and times in our lives that reveal to us at a gut level what is most important.
When, where and why this happens varies widely, but the main thing is that we reach that point, and recognize it when it comes.
Once it does happen, the courage to take appropriate action is easier to summon.

But, the memories of the pain one experiences will never completely subside.
There will be the residual guilt, the dislocations from former friends and allies, the outright ostracizing by some, the criticism and suspicions of others.
But in the end, things will settle down and a new life will supplant the old.
One constant will be the self satisfaction of resting in the peace of knowing that you did the right thing - for yourself, if no one else.
That alone can salve a lot of wounds.