If you are a leader, you are going to lie. If you are a follower, you are going to get lied to.
That is a given. It is the motivation and how we accept and respond to it that matters.
Before I go further, I want to clarify that I am differentiating between the leader/follower relationship and any other interpersonal relationships. In all roles, other than leader, lying should be avoided and engaging in the practice is between you, your conscience and your God.
In the leadership role, there are times where the truth can be fluid and/or counter-productive.
Leadership Lie #1: The Truth of the Moment.
As a leader, we make statements in the moment based on current facts, information, and predictions. Meaning that when I say a thing right now, it is true. But as we go forward, new facts and information emerge, and our predictions are often wrong. This requires a new statement of current truth, often contradicting prior statements, rendering those prior statements a lie. This is why a veteran, wise and moral leader manages her words and statements carefully. As a follower, though we may be upset, we need to determine if we were really lied to or the situation changed requiring a new truth. The answer determines if we abandon the leader or continue following.
Leadership Lie #2: Need to Know
As a leader, we may know the truth, but revealing that truth would be detrimental to the organization and followers. As Todd Whitaker writes, “… If you are a principal, everything is always ‘GREAT,’ because anything else is too much information.”
If not knowing the truth allows followers to put forth the effort required to be successful, the lie is necessary and justified. But do know if the truth is revealed, the damage to the leader/follower relationship can be irreplaceably damaged. See: Any college football coach who leaves for a higher paying job, after swearing they would never leave just two days before.
Leadership Lie #3: Convenient in the Moment
As a leader, this is often a panic driven lie. You are asked a question in an awkward situation and you are just saying words that will help you get away. This often happens to rookie leaders. This can be a forgivable sin, if the lie is small and you learn from it. See: Don’t walk off cliffs and keep your mouth shut when you don’t know the answer.
As a follower, loyalty to the organization and/or relationship with the leader will determine if we abandon the leader or continue following.
Leadership Lie #4: Lies Flow Like Water
There are people who assume leadership positions that are selfish, self-centered, sociopathic pretenders. These people lie freely for personal and professional gain. These people lie often because they believe that everyone is stupid and will accept anything that they say. If you are this person, you will eventually be found out. If you are forced to follow such a person, abandon them as soon as possible, before your dignity is crushed, effort is stolen, and reputation ruined.
Think. Work. Achieve.
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