Speaking Truth to Power

Dear Dr. Sylvia,

I have built a great career over the past 15 years. I was considered a high potential emerging leader and now I am seen as a full-blooded really great leader. 

However, the changes during this pandemic have me in a quandary.

Here’s the issue: in my organization, there are those who follow protocol and wear masks and those who think it’s up to them to decide.

Like everything else, there is a team mask and team no-mask.

Not a good way to have to lead when the points of view are super strong and often lead to nasty comments (usually behind people’s backs).

In any case, there is an on-site meeting coming up that my boss planned (I’m a senior VP) and he is a no-masker.

The debate with my team is go or no-go. My team is 9 people.

They also think it is my decision since I am their boss

If you were in this position, would you go and wear a mask, would you align with the boss and not wear a mask, or simply not go at all?



Dear Befuddled,

I want to take this to the larger issue and suggest you read a play that was written in 1882 and is now, once again, front and center about personal responsibility, speaking truth to power, and is vitally important to discuss.

The play, written by a Norwegian author at its heart, argues against respecting authority without questioning its aims.

“An Enemy of the People” is NOT a happily ever after play. 

Interestingly, this classic has resurfaced over the last several years as we struggle with the same issue of authority and aims.

Here is the basic plot: There was a huge bathing complex, today we would call it a healing spa, that was the main source of income for a small town, bringing in visitors and money, so they could live a comfortable life.

The town doctor found the reason people were getting sick. It was linked to the bath’s drainage system which was seriously contaminated.

He alerted members of the community who thanked him.

So far…… so good!

AH, the plot thickens.

The mayor (who was also the physician’s brother) told him he must retract his statements because the repairs were too expensive for the townspeople to pay.

The people needed the tourists, and he should just keep his mouth shut.

What would you do?

It’s not as easy as you think to speak truth to power.

Just ask some of the whistleblowers who have suffered from speaking out. Check out Erin Brockovich who blew the whistle about the contamination from PG&E in 1993 and Jeffrey Stephen Wigand who blew the whistle on nicotine in the tobacco industry in 1995. 

Here is my best thought: when you spend some quiet time looking back on your life what will you say you did that was courageous and worth speaking out about?

Since you are the leader, your voice counts. 

I know what I would do. What about YOU?

And what about YOU and YOU and YOU?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. 


To your success,


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Sylvia Lafair