At Work

Leadership Living in a No-Privacy World

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“It’s like pee in the pool – you don’t get it back.”

That’s one way I coach kids and young adults about the risks of using Facebook and other social media. A bit gross, perhaps impolite, but it gets their attention.

Our online publishing systems today don’t have a “forget” function. What we generate by email, texts, Facebook posts, blog posts, likes, location check-ins, online reviews, etc. is out there effectively forever. And none of it is truly anonymous.

Imagine how much information will be searchable about you in the next twenty years. It will become ridiculously easy for amateurs to surface the dirt and skeletons on almost everyone. All those goofy photos and embarrassing choice of words will make quite a collage, especially taken out of context.

One of the criteria we use for selecting/electing leaders is their past history. We say that we understand no one is perfect, everyone is a sinner – and are hard on our leaders (and sports heroes) when the dirt surfaces.

We’re right to hold leaders to a higher standard, for integrity must be part of the job description.

Jesus gave us sobering words to dispel immature ideas about “privacy”:

There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.  What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. (Luke 12:2-4)

Culturally speaking, there seems to be two schools of thought on the future impact of this digital reality:

1. Because everyone has regrettable stuff online, what happened in the past will be less important and insignificant. People will ignore it, or chalk it up to “whatever.”


2. Past performance will still count. The digital explosion simply increases the transparency of the process of vetting potential leaders.

I’ve asked about twenty people for their thoughts on this. Only those under the age of twenty-four have expressed the first view. They’re the digital natives, and frankly, many of them are hoping the first view is right.

They could be correct. Time will tell. It’s much more likely the second view will prevail. That’s the view most consistent with Scripture, both about us and about our omniscient God.

Deep in our gut we know leaders must be people of integrity. We know, to our peril, that selecting leaders we know are immature, liars, manipulators, and people with consistently poor judgment will lead to greater problems.

Since we’re all sinners, we’re choosing amongst the imperfect, to be sure, but there are definitely people with more integrity and character than others.

How then should leaders live?

If you’re reading this, you can’t significantly hide from the Internet. You must engage Internet work truthfully, wisely.

Jesus gave a clear command here:

Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (Matthew 5:37)

Wisdom often requires refraining from posting that tip-of-the-tongue and top-of-mind comment. Make sure your action and words add to your legacy of credibility. Don’t dilute your contributions with foolishness.

If enough leaders lead by example, then the pool is much cleaner for everyone.

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