Truth And Leadership

We all want our leader to be truthful, right? Who would want to follow someone that lies?

But the reality is that few people always tell the truth. Who hasn’t hedged the truth from time to time? Your wife asks how you like her new hairstyle. Do you say that it is horrid? No, not if you want to have a peaceful home. You say something like, “It is very youthful”. The same is true in business. One of your reports says he heard a rumor that there are going to be layoffs in the XYZ department. You know that to be true, but you also know that it can’t be announced or acknowledged until next Friday. So, you dodge the issue by saying, “Really, I hadn’t heard that rumor” or “There are always rumors about all kinds of things”, and change the subject.

In short, we alter the truth to save people’s feelings, or because we are restricted from telling the truth.

To muddy the water further, truth is based on fact. A fact is a fact is a fact is a fact. Not always, because a fact is often a time-sensitive item. What is a fact at 10 a.m. may not be a fact at 2 p.m? So what you say as a fact/truth at 10 a.m. may see as less than truthful at 2 p.m.

So if facts are fluid then truth that is based on fact is also fluid.

Perhaps the best we can hope for in our leaders is they make every effort to be truthful, and if so then we must cut them a bit of slack when their truth seems to fall a bit short of 100%. As someone once said, “Anyone that tells you he/she never lies has just proven that they lie”.


Ken Vincent
Ken Vincent
KEN is a 46 year veteran hotelier and entrepreneur. Formerly owned two hotels, an advertising agency, a wholesale tour company, a POS company, a leasing company, and a hotel management company. The hotels included chain owned, franchises, and independents. They ranged in type from small luxury inns, to limited service properties, to large convention hotels and resorts. After retiring he authored a book, “So Many Hotels, So Little Time” in which he relates what life is like behind the scenes for a hotel manager. Ken operated more that 100 hotels and resorts in the US and Caribbean and formed eight companies. He is a firm believer that senior management should share their knowledge and experience with the next generation of management.

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  1. Every time discussions about ethics and lies come up, I talk about a conversation I once had with my wife.

    Wife: “Chris, how does this look on me?”
    Me: “What do you mean?”

    Wife: “Does this make me look pretty, not fat?”
    Me: “Honey, so you’re asking me to say one of two things. Yes, you’re fat. No, you’re not.”

    Wife: “Chris, just tell me the truth.”
    Me: “Truth or not, I will always say you don’t look fat. If I tell you you’re fat, you will get upset with me and it could effect our whole relationship. But, if I tell you you don’t look fat, it will make you happy, it’s good for our relationship and you may be motivated to be more active, and thus lose some weight.”

    Wife: “Chris, honey, you’re not going to tell me the truth are you?”
    Me: “You’re not fat honey. The dress looks really nice on you.”

    The question that must be asked is when we lie, who do we lie for? For ourselves? Or for the other person? Who gains from the lie?

    If it’s always the liar, that liar is going to be a problem.

  2. Oh so much truth here. If we say we never lie, it’s a lie but, it gives people a sense of trust in your character. If we say, “Well, I shade the truth a bit now and then, but only when necessary,” it’s true, but people become leery and doubt your credibility. Sadly, the truth is, even our memories don’t have accurate recall. As we remember things they run through several years of filters before arriving at the final memory.

    I really like this thoughtful presentation of truth.