Should Leaders Always Tell the Truth? Not Without “Truth Pairings”

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Does being an authentic leader require you to tell the truth at all times?

Only if you understand certain vital “truth pairings”.

Let me explain with an admittedly clumsy illustration from the world of fine wine.

For maximum enjoyment certain wines are best “paired” with certain foods, cheeses, or desserts.

Similarly, for the authentic leader, “truth” must be paired with certain qualities. Specifically,

1.   Truth must be paired with discretion

Not everyone can or should know everything. A wise, authentic leader will know that certain information should be shared with certain audiences.

Think of how often Jesus healed someone, and afterwards cautioned them “tell no one about this”. Jesus was not being inauthentic. He was pairing truth with discretion.

2.   Truth must be paired with facts

A strongly held opinion is not necessarily the same as truth.

Inexperienced leaders sometimes make the mistake of believing that every core conviction they possess must be widely, and loudly shared in order to be “authentic”.

But truth is rooted in facts, not opinions.

3.   Truth must be paired with kindness

Firing the bazooka of ‘truth’ can cause a lot of damage if not accompanied by kindness.

The sad legacy of many churches is one of relational blow ups caused by a leader who dumped a truck load of truth on someone without the appropriate level of kindness.

Simply remember that the recipient of your truth is a real person, with real feelings. But this leads to pairing #4:

4.   Truth must be paired with clarity

This is the corollary of #3.

Being kind as a leader does not mean to water down truth nor to couch truth is so many niceties that clarity is sacrificed.

Jack Welch has wisely observed that “truth is the kindest form of leadership”. It is not an oxymoron to be both kind and clear in your communication.

If you’re committed to being an authentic leader, raise a glass to telling the truth…with the proper pairings.

Because a little discretion, facts, kindness and clarity can take your leadership a long way.

Have you ever handled truth poorly in your leadership?



the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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