Lying to Remain Relevant – Integrity of Motivation
“People may expect too much of journalism. Not only do they expect it to be entertaining, they expect it to be true.”
Lewis H. Lapham
Brian Williams: Integrity of Motivation?
Throughout my 30 year career in law, insurance and crisis management, I have seen countless examples where people have performed heroic acts, later learning they set the very fire they rescued the victim from; recounted witnessing a tragic event, only to find out they were nowhere near the scene; and advised loved ones they had cancer, but were never sick.
When I heard the story break about Brian Williams, I added him to my list of people who lack ‘integrity of motivation’–a concept I learned from a mentor of mine. My definition of one who lacks ‘integrity of motivation’ is someone driven to action by underlying hidden justifications that may be viewed as unethical.
I believe in some cases, unethical motivation originates from an underlying desire to feel valued– whether by community, family and friends, colleagues and peers, or the world at large. At some point, this longing for validation becomes more important to the person than maintaining ‘rightness’ in their actions. I also accept that there are other plausible explanations for Brian William’s behavior, ranging from false memory syndrome, as espoused by some experts, to his own egotistical drive to remain relevant in the demanding world where news is entertainment, and truth is forsaken for audience engagement and peer adoration.
My undergraduate degree in psychology doesn’t take me far enough to analyze Brian William’s ‘mistaken recollections.’ Whatever the underlying motivation, he appears to have pushed ethical boundaries, and misrepresented facts around helicopter fire, a floating body and rescuing puppies.
Brian has a unique opportunity now to transform his personal and business crisis into value for himself and the entire broadcasting industry. Firestorm assists organizations with this type of transformation on a regular basis. It requires only one thing to get started. ‘Integrity of motivation.’