For a leader, there is no such thing as “kind of” telling the truth.
If you are a leader, you are either fulfilling your personal commitment to tell someone who is counting on you the truth or you aren’t fulfilling that commitment. If you aren’t, then accountability within the relationship and the organization you lead is impossible, because you’ve already failed to be accountable to your team coming out of the gate.
That’s the high standard that leaders of teams and organizations must meet: they’re either telling the truth or they aren’t. It’s kind of like the old joke about having a baby: you’re either pregnant or you’re not. There’s no such thing as being “a little” pregnant. It’s an absolute state. And so is being a leader who expects—and shares—the truth.
You can depend on a culture where truth is consistently present. You cannot depend on a person who passes along, or accepts, less than the truth. Accountability and lying can never exist in the same space.
People who seek truth want only truth and do not want anything else around them. They don’t want “BS.” They are not afraid of being told the truth. They love the truth, even when it hurts, and they don’t want to associate with anything that is not the truth or with people who accept less than the truth.
What happens to people who don’t want to hear the truth? What happens when they would rather have their egos stroked than deal with the reality of their situation? What happens to their organization? I’ll tell you. The viewpoint of the entire organization becomes distorted. The viewpoint of the company’s people becomes distorted. The viewpoint of what their people can accomplish becomes distorted. There is a false picture of where they are, both individually and organizationally. This false picture leads to bad decisions, and those bad decisions lead to an ever-growing wave of less-than-favorable outcomes. It’s a downward cycle.
When people consistently don’t want to hear the truth, they lead themselves and the people around them in the wrong direction. This is the ultimate recipe for failure.
The truth produces something. It produces a freedom. We have all heard the expression, “The truth will set you free.” This concept originates in the New Testament—it’s in the Gospel of John, chapter 8, verse 32. But what does it mean, this idea that the truth will set you free? Free from what? What kind of freedom is it, and what will that freedom allow you to do? What happens if you do not have that freedom?
The reality is that truth frees you by allowing you to be you. When the standard by which you live your life is the truth that guides you, when you make your decisions based on this standard, you move closer to the person you are supposed to be. And you become more consistent in both your actions and your results. When you build your life around truth, you are free to move forward because you know how to make decisions, you know what your decisions are based on, and you know that the decisions you make, when they are based on the standard of truth, will always be the best decision you could have made.
That is true freedom, for leaders and for everyone else.
Sam Silverstein is dedicated to empowering people to live accountable lives, transform the way they do business, and create a more accountable world. He helps companies create an organizational culture that prioritizes and inspires accountability. His most recent book in the No More Excuses series, No Matter What: The 10 Commitments of Accountability, is available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, 800-CEO-READ, and other fine retailers.