The importance of telling the truth as a leader cannot be overstated. It’s the basis of trust. Of authenticity. Of honor. It provides security in relationships and is the rich soil in which those relationships can grow and prosper.
You have to wonder then why so many leaders find truth telling just so hard. The fact is too many leaders may not speak a lie, but they live a lie by staying mute when they should speak up. Sadly, this is especially true in nonprofit organizations.
A good example is how the under-performing employee is handled. Most leaders either ignore the situation, throw off cryptic comments hoping the employee will get the hint, or reassign him or her to another area or department, never having the honest conversation about their shortcomings.
Truth conversations are hard. They can be uncomfortable and create a vulnerability that at times can’t be controlled. You just don’t know how the person will react. But it’s incumbent upon leaders to speak the truth in every way.
The Bible gives great advice on how to speak the truth, and that is to do it in love (see Ephesians 4:15). In fact, whether you have that honest conversation or not reveals whether you really love someone. If you love someone enough, you will be willing to have a hard conversation no matter how uncomfortable it may be… and have it in a loving way.
But telling the truth is also about your personal style. Are you open and honest about your personal failures? Or do you try to be something you’re not? Do you invite personal criticism, and do you take that as a way to learn and continue to grow? Do you model the strength and power of genuine humility that has a firm grasp on your competencies as well as your weaknesses? (By the way, in case you didn’t know, the people working for you see you for who you are whether you do or not.)
Your personal commitment to truth telling will infect the entire culture of your organization. The more open and honest, the less political. The more closed and manipulative, the more political. That’s a law of organizational life.
So if you want to be known as a leader who can be trusted, who is authentic… the real deal… a person of honor who loves those you lead, then speak the truth. And live the truth. If you do, you will build a culture where people are secure, where relationships are authentic, and where people thrive.
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