[May 28, 2020] U.S. Army General Omar Bradley once said that “leadership is intangible, and therefore no weapon ever designed can replace it.” Bradley understood that truth shines a light on everything a leader does or does not do. He was adamant that truth was the fundamental element of leadership and that there is no such thing as narrow as military truth. Still, he believed truth is independent and self-evident if we only can remove the cobwebs that surround it.
It would be no surprise to those who knew Omar Bradley that he believed in living the truth. That is how he lived his life and why he was able to ascend to high levels of leadership in the U.S. military. Living the truth, to him, was more important than professing the truth. Like so many great leaders, he would never shade or distort the truth. That way, he gave those who he worked for and those who worked for him, the raw truth in all its good and evil.
Truth can be as beautiful as it is terrible. We can see in Western politics where our political elite believe they own the truth, and only they have the answers to difficult questions. This leads to corruption of the mind, where truth is nothing but another element in their quest to gain power, influence, and things. Corruption starts with the first lie and only expands its sway from that point forward.
Psychologists warn us that failure distorts our perception of the world. Religious leaders warn us that not telling the truth changes our souls, damages our character, and harms our relationship with God and with those most valuable to us. This corruptive effect on our selves should be a warning to those who are quick to lie or distort the truth. This is why we should strive to always tell the truth even when, and especially when, it hurts.
I wrote a few years ago about the leader’s folly of exaggerating the truth (see article here). In it, I laid out the argument that there is a trend of leaders who exaggerate the truth, pad their resumes, overstate their professional credentials, and misrepresent their career achievements. I noted that this is sad because they firmly believe that they can escape the truth. Maybe they can participate in the short-term, but eventually, a leader will be found out.
The lesson is one that bears repeating. Never say or do anything that is not brutally honest. Being a leader is hard but being an honest leader is harder. Yet, an honest leader is the only righteous path. In the end, the truth never hurts as much as a lie.