[December 2, 2017] As a 5-year old child I told a fib about a large catfish I’d caught in a nearby pond but somehow my grandmother, a great lady, knew I was exaggerating. As a child, I could get away with a little padding of my fishing résumé but as an adult, the effect can be unexpected and often bad.
Exaggerating our background or résumé is something we all have done. Humans are prone to adding a little excitement to our accomplishments for a variety of reasons; usually as a way to get people to notice us. However, when leaders exaggerate their accomplishments, the results can turn out ugly.
U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Richard Blumenthal have both been in the news lately for doing just this. In each case they repeatedly told a particular lie and eventually, they were caught. In each case it brought a degree of humiliation upon them and those connected to them. Warren and Blumenthal were both called out by U.S. President Trump for doing so. Neither of them continues to lie about their background but their past lies follow them and crop up at inopportune times.
Warren said her heritage was part American Indian and used that as a pathway to gain favor at Harvard University. Blumenthal claimed he fought in Vietnam. Each had their own reason for doing it. Both claimed it was innocent and over exaggerated; a to-do about nothing. This, of course, has made it worse. Better to simply say they made a mistake, truly apologize, make amends, learn from it, and move on.
Political leadership is not that different from leadership anywhere else. As a U.S. Senator, one of the most senior positions in government, it is crucial that people have trust and confidence in their abilities. Lack of trustworthiness can make good work they do, much more difficult. If a person will lie repeatedly about something like this, where else are they not telling the truth?
Exaggeration is just a lie. There is no messaging the fact that when someone fails to tell the whole truth, exaggerates, or outright lies about anything, they are less trustworthy regardless of the good they may have done in the past. In today’s world of social media and data on the Internet, those lies will follow them for the rest of their lives. Each has made themselves vulnerable to future political attacks and ridicule.
It is best not to hit back at others who bring up your unsavory past; better to smile and continue doing good works. This best thing to do is to never exaggerate (or lie) in the first place. That has not been the method used by either Warren or Blumenthal.
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