Thank you for allowing this shameless self-promotion before today’s story. In October, I was a guest on the Northern Trust Advisors Podcast, and I just learned that this podcast made their top ten for 2021. So exciting! Here’s a link if you want to listen to a 1.5-minute excerpt. 

Psychologists, anthropologists, everyone who studies the human brain tells us we are hardwired to respond to stories.

A while back, I watched two documentaries chronicling stories told by storytellers who were later indicted for fraud, Billy McFarland, founder of Fyre Media and creator of the Fyre Festival, and Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos. 

Perhaps because I watched them back to back, I was struck by the common themes. Both founders passionately believed in their stories and told them well, so well, that investors and buyers flocked to them. 

We will never know whether these storytellers and others like them set out to commit fraud or whether they believed so passionately in their stories that they were blind to the facts. 

Regardless of their intent, their stories were compelling, and investors and customers bought in. 

This past week, a jury convicted Elizabeth Holmes of three counts of fraud. And Billy McFarland was convicted of two counts of fraud in 2018.

For me, these cases raise important questions for us as leaders: 

  1. When does confidence become hubris?
  2. How do we recognize the difference between believing in our vision and blind passion? 
  3. How do we ensure that we monitor and evaluate our endeavors and keep ourselves open to hearing and processing feedback that may be contrary to our beliefs?

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