[January 7, 2014] One of the most disheartening trends today in leaders is their propensity to lie; to lie about things great and small. There is an apparent innate tendency to lie – this includes embellishment of the truth – to others and to ourselves about a variety of issues from the time we are children onward. To answer the question are we liars, the answer is unequivocally “yes” and it’s increasingly a common habit among leaders.
We look to leaders for guidance but also for how to act and how to think about the complexities of the world. When leaders are good and we are surrounded by good people, then we are likely to follow in their footsteps. Conversely, when leaders are bad or evil, that path will be taken. Adolf Hitler was evil and many emulated his traits and followed him; we know how that ended.
I covered how leaders encourage lying in a previous post (link here). The post is about how leaders encourage lying, sometimes inadvertently although many times purposefully. They do this putting their followers in ethical dilemmas, generate fear of reprisal, create unrealistic demands, and by put them at a significant disadvantage to others.1 Sadly, psychologist tell us that both lying and encouraging lying are linked and discuss how lying destroys trust.
The foundation of any society is trust and to lie means to undermine that trust. Great leaders know this and work hard to ensure that they are truthful and transparent. Transparency helps ensure that they are not only believed to be truthful but they also maintain the appearance of trustworthiness.
When leaders lie, regardless of the reason, we lose respect for them. For example, U.S. President Obama said in 2014 that “ISIL is not Islamic”2 and has repeated this assertion several times since. The Islamic State terrorist group is known by virtually every person on the planet to be an Islamic extremist organization, so to make the claim and then repeat it hurts his credibility and belittles his authority.
Leadership means being honest and truthful about what our followers will have to face; in the workplace, on the battlefield, or at home. We need good leaders and being the liar fails even the minimum standard of leadership.
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