Why Some Leaders Will Lie and Do It Often

By | June 14, 2020

[June 14, 2020]  Today is Flag Day in the United States.  The Flag symbolizes all that is right with America and represents those who have chosen a successful way of life – more successful than any other.  But it is not perfect.  Honor, integrity, protecting the weak, standing against evil are attributes that allow us to overcome that lack of perfection.  So why is it that when we live in such a time that so some leaders will lie and do it often?

Before I answer that question, there is something that must be clarified.  It is not just “some” leaders that lie; all of us lie.  We are encouraged to lie by other leaders and to distort the truth, hedge what we see, and omit certain elements to mislead.  Sometimes leaders inadvertently encourage us to lie because doing so is accepted and commonplace.  Other times leaders encourage us to lie and do so purposefully for reasons I wrote about a few years ago (see link here).

Leaders lie for the same reasons we all lie.

  1. They do it to win arguments, gain status, impress others, and get what they want.
  2. They use language to bend and twist the world into delivering what they think is necessary. Such a skill is valuable; it works.
  3. They are obsessed with honor that is more important than safety, freedom, or belonging.
  4. They gain popularity and attract fans to their cause and their personality. It’s thrilling to see people flock to you.
  5. Lying allows leaders to ignore their own problems and deficiencies. It enables them to avoid shame and humiliation when otherwise exposed to the world.

But practicing the lie is corrupting and can produce unintended consequences.  One consequence is that people who lie will put their version of the truth above others.  They are twisted into believing they are somehow better than others or that their ideas are superior.  Why not, a leader will ask, doesn’t my thinking win every time?

If leaders took the opportunity to look closely at what they say, they would come to realize most of what they say is untrue.  This view can be disconcerting.  They will see themselves a fake and will not like it.  Recognizing yourself as somehow deficient is disturbing.  The way to overcome such a problem is to start practicing the truth.  At least don’t lie.  This skill can come in handy when one doesn’t know what to do (a common situation for leaders).

Enjoy the day, display the American Flag, and honor the Nation that has been a beacon of light to the oppressed and downtrodden.  Tell the truth!

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

21 thoughts on “Why Some Leaders Will Lie and Do It Often

  1. Albert Ayer

    Why do people lie? Such a simple question should come with a simple answer (but doesn’t, unfortunately). There are indications, however, that most of us share same the motives for telling lies.

    1. Newtown Manager

      Yep, happens all the time and not just 2 or 3 times a day like some scientists claim. Much more pervasive, regardless of the motives.

  2. Darryl Sitterly

    Some of the most common lies are white lies, which are typically considered to be harmless, trivial, or mundane. Does this make them any better or worse than big, bold-face lies? Maybe the small ones lead to big ones. I think YES.

    1. Ronny Fisher

      Lies corrupt. They do things to us, gradually but surely, over time and pull us down into them muck (or “hell” if you prefer) without us even knowing it is happening.

  3. Bryan Lee

    Why do we lie? Here are some simple reasons:
    1. To flatter people
    2. To avoid awkwardness
    3. To influence others
    4. To avoid a negative outcome
    5. To achieve a positive outcome
    6. To make yourself look more impressive
    7. To maintain a previous lie

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      Nice list, Bryan. You are pretty good a this ‘list’ thing. Keep it up.

  4. Jonathan B.

    Robert Feldman, PhD, a professor of psychology at University of Massachusetts Amherst, studies “verbal deceit.” He tells me the biggest reason people are dishonest is that “lying is a very effective social tactic.” He adds, “People don’t expect to be lied to; the expectation is that they’re hearing the truth from others, and so that allows people who are lying to often get away with it.”

  5. Deplorable John

    It is important to remember flag day and that it represents what we are as a Nation. Great job, Gen. Satterfield for not forgetting this historic treasure of ours.

    1. Fred Weber

      Good one. Here is something I did not know.
      The practice of draping coffins in the American flag is not reserved for military veterans and government officials. On the contrary, any burial may incorporate this tradition.

    2. Wilson Cox

      Did Betsy Ross really make the first American flag?

      1. Joe Omerrod

        It appears not but still a great story.

    3. Harry B. Donner

      On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the national flag of the United States. It is known that Ross made flags for the navy, but there is no firm evidence in support of the popular story about her making (and designing) the national flag.

  6. Shawn C. Stolarz

    An interesting topic. I would believe early in my life that lying was only something done rarely. But now I can better ‘see’ that it is actually done all the time by all of us. How, important question, do we get back to the point where we tell the truth, are honest with others, and can accept only the truth? The truth as we can see it after thoroughly rejecting obvious distortions, omissions, and absolute falsehoods!

    1. Anita

      Good question Shawn. That is something that has been in the wisdom rucksack for a long time and occassionally we take it out to peer at it and wonder how to solve the problem.

      1. Dennis Mathes

        Yes, and at least some of us are trying to solve it. When people give up on it, nothing good comes of it. I believe that the attempt to solve the question of how to stop lying is a process that may never end.

    2. Dead Pool Guy

      You have something here that all of us should at least ponder on at times.

  7. Eric Coda

    Good one! Gen. Satterfield these are the kind of blog posts that make me THINK and that is why I keep coming back to your pages. It pushes my ability to think, analyze, and work on being creative. Well done!

  8. Anita

    Excellent article. I had to read it twice to get the full meaning.

Comments are closed.