Unearned Praise

By: Leymah R. Gbowee

During a recent ceremony celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Vartan Gregorian, a friend of his spoke about him getting a job and sitting with Vartan for advice. Vartan told him, “You have been given an excellent opportunity to head one of the most prominent philanthropic organizations. Remember, it is not your money, so don’t be intoxicated by unearned praise.

In today’s world, I have come to observe how people who are fortunate to serve sometimes get caught up in the dangerous trap of being intoxicated by power and the need to fuel that intoxication daily with undeserved praises.

It is not uncommon of late for politicians to elevate individuals with little to no competence to high offices in our part of the world. If one were to search deeper, one might find that these elevated individuals acquire their positions by showering their bosses with unearned and unrealistic praises.

It is worth noting that this trend is operational in the political. This trend is even more prevalent in our religious organizations; spiritual leaders thrive on members who will massage their egos and tell them all is well even when they know all is not well.

We live in the age of the rise of the naked emperor syndrome, and anyone who points out the glaring nakedness gets shunned, isolated, ostracized, and in some extreme cases, killed.

We are then left asking, ‘How do we fix a world slowly descending into chaos on every front? How do we transform humanity? What future are we preparing for the next generation?’

I firmly believe that we all have a role in fixing our world. Even as I lament the situation in many communities, religious organizations, countries, or even my office, I want you to ask yourself, “Am I one of those enabling dysfunction and mediocrity by showering my leader with unearned leadership praises? Do I disregard the truth in search of self-aggrandizement?”

Unearned praise is a drug that we administer to our leaders, giving them our full permission to abuse, misuse, and plunder power. Let’s be wise with our words, choosing truth over inflating egos.


The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by Searchlight Communications Inc. Established on November 16, 2009, with its first hard copy publication on January 22, 2010. The office is located on UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is bilingual (both English & French).
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