Melville’s Billy Budd is a thought-provoking novel that delves into the importance of making objective and fair decisions. In the story, the captain of the Bellipotent is faced with a difficult decision after sailor Billy Budd is accused of killing John Claggart, the master-at-arms. As a witness to the incident, Captain Vere knows that it was an accident and that Billy Budd did not intend to kill Claggart. However, he must make a decision about how to handle the situation.
The captain has several options, including putting Billy Budd in prison and waiting for military jurisdiction, organizing a fair trial on board and finding Billy Budd innocent, or organizing a trial in his stealth influence on board and finding Billy Budd guilty on purpose. Despite knowing in his heart that Billy Budd is innocent, the captain chooses the third option due to the potential mutiny threats on board. He concludes that waiting or releasing Billy Budd might show him as a weak captain.
At the end of the trial, Billy Budd is found guilty, despite everyone knowing that he is innocent. Captain Vere is known as a fair leader, but in the case of Billy Budd, he makes an unfair decision and sacrifices him to protect his ship from potential mutiny.
A true leader must always make fair and objective judgments. A leader cannot be objective in certain situations and unfair in others. Consistency is crucial because trust is one of the main ingredients of leadership. A leader who plays with the trust factor loses the confidence of their followers and even their self-confidence. A leader should always reflect the values that they believe in and not compromise their fundamental human values and rights.
In my career, I have faced situations where I was forced to make unfair decisions to protect my position. However, I chose to lose my position and paid the cost of being fair and sticking to my values. I believe that personal integrity and making fair decisions are more important than protecting personal interests or trying to be successful at all costs.