Deceit and Duplicity – The Two-Headed Monster of Politics

Having a competitive spirit is usually a positive attribute in our culture. Whether in work, life, or play, we’re hard-wired to face competition with strength, tenacity, and the goal of winning. It’s the American way, but unfortunately, for many, winning has become the supreme, all-important goal!   

As we approach this very important 2020 election, there seems to be a political frenzy. Many candidates and their parties are desperate to win at all costs, with millions of dollars spent to influence voters. For example, spending for TV ads just by a single party for a governor or senate race can range $10-30 million dollars—and based on NPR statistics, both 2020 presidential campaigns are on track to raise (and spend) more than $1 billion dollars each.

The More Dangerous Concern

Beyond the vast resources being spent though, the greater concern is the blatant deceit that has become a tolerated part of election season; that is, if you consistently vilify and defame your opponent and play dirty politics, you have a good chance of winning regardless of your own past performance or political record.

Throughout the election season, we’ve been constantly bombarded with out-of-control half-truths, aka “spin”, and outright lies about opponents, as well as promises that will never be kept. We must be shrewder and more discerning as voters to get past the duplicity and find the truth and honor in political candidates.

Here’s my 4-minute video coaching on this topic–please watch:

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My Lengthy Experience with Deceit

As a Vietnam POW under communist rule for over five years, I heard lies and half-truths three times a day as the box speaker in my cell spewed forth party propaganda. Consequently, my greatest source of anger and concern since repatriation has come from my loathing for lies and duplicity, especially when someone is trying to get me to believe something that is clearly not true or so far out of context that it has no relevance.

Intentional misrepresentation of facts or reckless attacks on another person’s character are anathema to a free society, and they echo the communist tactics we experienced in the camps many years ago. Think about this for a bit.

Lies, half-truths and distortions are what leaders do when their ideas are not good enough to win votes. [Tweet This]

Why do we tolerate such dishonorable behavior? Regardless of one’s political ideology, what is the real benefit of defending and supporting spin artists whose actions and words consistently show them to be untrustworthy? Is our Republic on a slippery slope? From firsthand experience living under the communists, I saw the evil that comes from a society that is led by those whose power is built on the mindset that “the end justifies the means.”

Correcting Our Course

The mission, vision, and values of the 4th Allied POW wing in the Hanoi Hilton were eventually combined into three words, “Return with Honor.” Our actions were governed by the Military Code of Conduct, a list of six statements developed after the Korean War to guide prisoners of war. Even though we had ideological differences on some issues, this code clarified our commitments, made us accountable to standards and each other, and inspired an amazing bond that held us together in unity. It was our highest priority as we fought to do our duty and serve honorably under the grimmest of circumstances.

Here’s a truth that we must never forget:

Lies chip away at our freedom as individuals and as a nation, and truth is the cornerstone for liberty, justice and a free society. [Tweet This]

We should reject liars—especially at the ballot box—and make electing honorable leaders our highest priority.

7 Core Behaviors for Honorable Leadership

Having a very specific code of conduct in the POW camps provided a powerful and unifying force. Based on that experience, we at Leading with Honor have developed seven principles to clarify honorable behavior for all citizens and especially leaders:

  1. Tell the truth even when it’s difficult. Avoid duplicity and deceitful behavior.
  2. Treat others with dignity and respect. Take the lead and operate by the Golden Rule.
  3. Keep your word and your commitments. Ask for relief sooner than later if necessary.
  4. Be ethical. Operate within the laws of the land, the guidelines of your profession, and the values that you proclaim.
  5. Act with responsibility, do your duty, and be accountable. Own your mistakes, and work to make things better in the future.
  6. Be courageous. Lean into the pain of your fears to do what you know is right even when it feels unnatural or uncomfortable.
  7. Stay attuned to your spiritual core, your conscience, and your deepest intuitions. Listen for wisdom about honor, ethics, and courage.

What do you think would happen to our society if we all did our best to follow these seven short principles of honor? Don’t underestimate the power of a few honorable people to make a significant difference in our culture. Make a commitment to do your part as leaders in effecting positive change and expect results from your efforts.

For a free copy of the Honor Code, go to

For a free copy of the Voter Evaluation Guide, go to


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The Primer for Honorable Leadership

In this powerful and practical award-winning book, Lee Ellis, a former Air Force pilot, candidly talks about his five and a half years of captivity and the 14 key leadership principles behind this amazing story.

As a successful executive coach and corporate consultant, he helps leaders of Fortune 500 companies, healthcare executives, small business owners, and entrepreneurs utilize these same pressure-tested principles to increase their personal and organizational success.

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