Conflict of Interest vs The Appearance of a Conflict of Interest

There was once a great military general who was known for his cunning ability to see through the weeds and realize his objectives with extreme efficiency. He knew precisely which levers to pull, who to place in leadership positions, and who to fire. For many years he was exalted as the greatest general to ever lead an army of men, until he appointed Jacob, his soon to be son-in law as the commander of alpha company.

Jacob was an excellent soldier and had an impeccable service history. He pulled his own platoon leader out of foxhole after being shell shocked and was well respected among his peers. When his father-in-law offered him the position, Jacob was honored, scared, and confused. The issue was that the man he would be replacing was also well respected, quite older and possessed much more wisdom than Jacob. There was one problem, the older commander had few years left and budget constraints could not afford two commanders. So, the general then fired the old commander and appointed Jacob as the new commander.
As the months progressed, Jacob began loosing more and more respect from his men as they felt that he was given the promotion simply because he was going to be the general’s son-in-law. While Jacob was highly qualified for the the position, he could never create movement and lead his men effectively. Soon the general began loosing the respect of his commanders. Eventually, the company was overrun and completely destroyed by the enemy, all because there was an appearance of conflict of interest.
This story highlights that whether or not a conflict of interest exists is immaterial. Simply the appearance of a conflict of interest is enough to destroy any movement or entity. Therefore, it is essential for intentions and motives to be explicitly clear of those in leadership positions.
Leaders, are your intentions and motives extremely clear? Is there a fine line drawn to keep you at arms length from calamity?

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