So I am going to take this week to use this column for my own nerdy needs. Just trust me and go with it.
As anyone knows who has possibly ever spoken to me, I have a kind of unique project for my JMS project: conspiracy theories. I know, it is probably unexpected coming from me, but it has actually taught me more about life and leadership than I ever imagined.
In my project, I am attempting to figure out why people form and continue to believe conspiracy theories. When people hear the words “conspiracy theory,” they instantly think the stories that there was a second shooter involved in JFK’s assassination or that the United States government secretly planned September 11th in order to have a reason to invade Iraq. However, the truth is people form other conspiracy theories without realizing it. Looking at the past two years at Millikin, there have been many conspiracy theories floating around campus. Typically, though, people would never put the label “conspiracy theory” on these beliefs.
While studying all these different conspiracy theories out there and examining the events and conversations of students on campus, I realized that there was an explanation for all this. When people live or participate in a society where they believe or even have evidence that information is withheld from the public, they begin to form these conspiracy theories. The thinking process goes along the lines of “If they have withheld information from us before, what would stop them from doing it again?”
When I originally took on this project, I just figured this would be another piece of writing and research I could put down on my resume and start really interesting conversations at family gatherings. However, I have realized this year that this project has actually taught me a life lesson. It taught me that in order to have people’s trust, you need to be transparent with them. You cannot give them reasons to believe that you would not give them the full story.
This has definitely affected the way I work as a leader. That’s actually part of the reason I asked to have this weekly column. I wanted to be transparent to my constituency, the students. I wanted to do this so I could be as open with the student body as possible so could be held to a standard by my constituency. Who knew that the childhood joke “Secrets don’t make friends” actually had an academic component to it?