by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note.
You know why there are so many people not getting ahead in the world? Oh, there are plenty of “reasons” that the non upwardly mobile give, like...
The boss doesn’t like you.
You are a corporate blabbermouth.
You are always pestering the boss for a raise.
You come and go like the wind to suit yourself, never being able to make the deadlines required.
You’re inclined to mouth off, when “mouth in” would make a hell of a lot more sense.
Your cubicle in the office is so dirty, rats exclaim “Eureka!” when they arrive after you’ve gone home.
Oh yeah, there are plenty of excuses that are holding you back. But one, if you absorb, will move you ahead like a space rocket. That is… take the hit.
The first rule of life within a corporation or other business entity is that the leadership must be allowed to lead. And as sure as God made little green apples, when they lead they are going to make mistakes. I want to tell you a whopper mistake that almost blew up the nuclear bomb. That was the run up to the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1972.
It has been my horror to review the private records of President Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy. These boys were scared. Let me give a for instance. The archival papers are filled with one ongoing theme: the demand of the Kennedy brothers to the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Cuban revolutionaries that none of them tripwire the operation and let the genie out of the bottle, rather making sure that no one in and around the White House could possibly be blamed should anything go wrong. But of course, nothing ever would, right?
Mama mia! Now think for a second about what was going on. You had military personnel being told they’d blow the whole operation should any part of it become public. Well let me ask you something. Mr. Reader. If someone asked you whether a bunch of warriors could get from the Caribbean or Florida to Cuba and keep it all quiet, this is what you’d say… “Orville, that is downright the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. You can’t keep these people under wraps with duct tape on their mouths.” In other words, plausible deniability was the stupidest assumption the President of these United States ever made.
But Kennedy knew one thing… something you learn when you grow up in a family as big as his. There must always be a Plan B, which is Alfred E. Newman’s well known line… “What, me worry?”
And so, when the Bay of Pigs fiasco blew up with everyone and their brother predicting the end of the world through just one tidy A-Bomb or two, Kennedy acted. Not to clear the decks, not to tell the truth, not to make up with Khrushchev (kiss kiss), but CYA.
And the poor schlepper he dumped on was Adlai E. Stevenson (1900-1965), Ambassador to the United Nations.
Stevenson was in a bad place. The President was telling him the United States was not involved in this Bayside fiasco, but Stevenson was hearing from everyone and their brother that not only were we involved, we were leading the parade. What’s a body to do?
Find a dodo, and drop the hit right square on his head, just the way Kennedy did with Stevenson, and the way Bush ‘41 did with General Colin Powell (maybe there’s something in the water down there at the United Nations; it certainly is unpleasant enough).
I can very well imagine Stevenson’s plight in those days approaching Armageddon. On the one hand, he is told from the White House, “Don’t worry, we didn’t do anything”. And on the other hand, every information source that made itself available to him (he didn’t have to go far) told him that he was being lied to by his President, the President of the United States, liar.
Kennedy and Stevenson didn’t get along as it was. Kennedy despised Stevenson, after all, he had been crushed in the 1952 presidental election by everybody’s favorite boy scout, Dwight David Eisenhower.
And then if that wasn’t enough, he went and got himself crushed in the 1956 election by that same boy scout, the hero of Europe, and cute to boot.
Stevenson infuriated him further. In 1960, when he allowed his name to go forward for the Democratic nomation for President, Eleanor Roosevelt
kept the waters roiling by pushing for Stevenson – again! Stevenson had no chance in 1960 (frankly, he didn’t have a chance at any time), but his candidacy signalled to the left wing of the Democratic party that they just couldn’t stomach Jack Kennedy on any terms.
Now this is a moment tailor made to make everyone unhappy. Eleanor Roosevelt, the matriarch of the party, couldn’t stand Kennedy. Not only was he too young, but he didn’t revere Mother Roosevelt nearly as much as she thought he should. And as long as she was calling any shots on the left wing, and as long as she kept Adlai in the race, old man Kennedy and his brood lived in a state of barely supressed rage.
Now you can imagine once they screwed up the invasion, how desperately they needed a scapegoat. That scapegoat had Adlai E. Stevenson written all over it.
And now we come to his problem, and yours.
President Kennedy realized that if he accepted responsibility for the Bay of Pigs invasion, his standing in the international community, not to mention rural America, would plummet. But since Adlai E. Stevenson was entirely disposable, the Kennedys kept him dangling on a string until they decided what was the best way of slitting his throat.
What was going on?
Just this: Kennedy couldn’t afford to take the hit, and so he threw Adlai Stevenson to the crocodiles. Now this wouldn’t have been quite as bad as it was if Jack Kennedy had sweetened the pie just a little bit, and given Stevenson what he really wanted – to be Secretary of State.
That would have involved kicking Dean Rusk out of Foggy Bottom, and giving him something like, say, the Ambassadorship to Trinidad. But Rusk was Kennedy’s boy, and Stevenson wasn’t. Therefore, Kennedy just forced him to take the hit, but gave him nothing for it but a Hallmark card that said “happy happy”.
Of course in retrospect, Kennedy should have given Stevenson anything he wanted, as long as it didn’t involve Washington D.C. or Mrs. Roosevelt, for they all cordially hated each other by now.
So what’s the lesson to be learned here, the one that can make or break your corporate career? Whenever possible, and whenever your boss has screwed up, let him know you’ll be glad to take the hit.
I’ve got a friend who needs to learn this lesson yesterday. He thinks nothing of fighting back when the boss says “Do X.” And my friend says, “Wait a minute, we agreed on Y.”
Now maybe the boss and my friend did or didn’t agree, but that is not the important thing. The important thing is to take the hit for the boss, and come back in a reasonable time (like 2-3 days) and claim your goodie, and not do what my friend cannot cease doing – lifting his fist, looking right in the boss’s eye, and saying “This is what we said. Are you saying we didn’t?”
Many corporate careers have been broken (or made) at this moment. Everybody knows the big boss makes mistakes, sometimes it’s some real whoppers like the Bay of Pigs, which almost wiped out the whole planet. But we all know that the big boss cannot take the hit, and so an alternative must be connived.
Most people in most businesses spend a considerable amount of their time yapping about how lame and stupid the big boss really is. They may actually believe it, or they may just be saying so to pass the time of day and indicate that they are just an ordinary guy or gal. But you’re not ordinary. And that’s why at all times, you must be prepared to move with events, not just stand by and look at them happening.
When the boss needs you don’t hide under your desk or stand on the sidelines kibitzing, go and proclaim to him that you are available to help right now… and then do so.
Every leader in the world needs loyal followers. There is nothing more loyal than falling on your sword… so long as you know that you will rise like the phoenix in short order, with your leader’s enthusiastic assistance.
Now, while others scratch their heads about whatever actually happened, you’ll know because you’ve been a part of securing the glorious administration of leadership of the man or woman who calls themselves your boss. As a result, you will move up fast. Oh, even faster if you gather together all documents pertaining to the incident in question.
Sadly, Adlai Stevenson didn’t have it in him to do this. And this clouded his last years on Earth. He must have wondered how different things might have been if he submitted, at a moment of his choosing, all the private documents in question. Why, Mr. Julian Assange, the leader of Wikileaks, could have told him how sweet that is. Just watch your back.
About the author
Dr. Jeffrey Lant is well known worldwide for his insight into corporate events, leadership, personnel, etc. He is the author of over 60 books, and over 1,000 articles on a wide variety of topics. He is known for telling it like it is.
To get access to all of Dr. Lant’s many ideas, projects, programs, books, and materials, go to www.drjeffreylant.com. Don’t try to do all of this alone when you have such superior assistance available right now.
Dr. Jeffrey Lant, Harvard educated, started writing for publication at age 5. Since then, he has published over 1,000 articles and 63 books, and counting.