North Korean children hold up red scarves to be tied around their necks during an induction ceremony into the Korean Children's Union, the first political organization for North Koreans, held at a stadium in Pyongyang on Friday, April 12, 2013. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

At a rally in 2012, members of the Korean Children’s Union wept and jostled to hold Kim Jong Un’s hand in what was likened to a welcome given to teen pop idol Justin Bieber than a political leader. In a speech to mark the organisation’s anniversary, Kim told the young delegates they were the future masters of a ‘most powerful country where every home will be full of laughter and everyone lives in harmony’.”

Totalitarian governments have always traded in fantasy. This often involves gigantic perception gaps in how they see the world. These absolute systems often collapse because of contradictions between aspirational cultures of universal happiness and prosperity and the grim everyday realities of poverty and repression for their citizens.

Resisting unwelcome truths is an unhealthy dynamic in any group or organisation. A traveller told this story about the former Communist East Germany:

“There was a failure of the wheat harvest. This meant there was a resulting shortage of bread. The Government put up posters and made radio broadcasts “there is plenty of bread”, “don’t say there is no bread”. The shops remained empty and people were hungry.”

It is always better to have a reliable feedback loop operating. It provides accurate information rather than just what we want to hear. This applies to Business Executives and Governments who only want good news from those they lead. It is also relevant for family relationships and volunteer groups. The truth can sting, but so can a good disinfectant – – which in some circumstances can save your life. An ancient writer penned this pithy truism: “better is open rebuke than hidden love”.