What is the role of truthfulness in your life? In your leadership?
The question of truthfulness has been front and center in recent times. In fact, some would say that the truth has been getting shoved aside in favor of ‘whatever works’. How did we get here? And is there a cost to the aspiration of becoming a great leader? A great society?
As children in my generation (baby boomer), telling the truth was an unwavering maxim. We were told that being honest is how you develop into a respectable part of society, someone people would trust and believe. In fact this teaching was so ingrained that if you told a lie, you would feel awful about it and the only remedy was to ‘come clean’. As we grew up, the opportunities to lie, or shade the truth, became more numerous and, at times, even tantalizing. But in my experience, that early training generally kept us on the right side of truthfulness. And yet, we seem to have become more tolerant, even accepting, of others who fail to tell the truth. I’ve been curious about this shift and have been reflecting on the causes for some time. While I am sure there are many reasons for each situation, two of the common threads I have noticed are uncertainty and fear.
We are living in a time of unprecedented changes and threats. And each day we can hear stories and theories that are more about inciting an emotion than sharing factual information. And the emotions that they want to incite are uncertainty and fear. Some examples: what will happen to the economy if x takes office, what will happen to my job if x’s policies are in place, what will happen to my family’s health if x is in office, what will happen to the climate if x is in office, etc
And to make their points, some with a platform make up or twist the facts to stir up their audience. But it isn’t all their fault. We, as consumers, need to demand better. We need to use our power as consumers to switch off the rhetoric and look for the facts.
You see, the truth is not a ‘nice to have’. It is an essential ingredient to great leadership and the development of a great society. We cannot build healthy families or healthy companies or healthy governments without integrity and ethics. And they rely on truthfulness.
We each need to set a good example with our choices and our speech. Our children need to see that it is not ok to cheat or tell lies, our employees need to feel good about the work they do because the organization is led by people with integrity, and our government needs to remember that they are there to represent the interests of our country over party, and its citizens deserve the unvarnished truth. When we begin to question the truthfulness of those around us, the ramifications are enormous. It exacerbates this feeling of uncertainty and fear, and generates an overall feeling of anxiety.
We must, as a society, do better. Truthfulness is a basic building block of a great society, and without it, the foundation weakens and the society eventually falls.
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