This week we continue the serialization of, How (Not) to Be a Leader Volume 1, in preparation for the release of the next two books, How NOT to Build a Great Team and How NOT to Create a Winning Strategy. We hope you will enjoy Chapter 9 – The Irrelevance of Truth.
Sent: Tuesday, February 3 at 6:45 pm
To: All Staff
Subject: Difficult Times Ahead
I regret to announce that due to recent decisions by your management team, we’re going to be shutting down the San Diego plant. Although this will result in layoffs, all of these people will be offered jobs at our new facility in Fargo, North Dakota. We look forward to our continued growth and profits. The new location offers so much in the way of quality of life and lower cost of living that I’m sure many of you will want to trade your overpriced houses for that much desired white Christmas!
The truth: What is it really? And according to whom? And by the way, exaggeration is not lying, it’s just a little aberration on the truth, but it’s perfectly acceptable. Remember, there is no actual truth squad, much to some of the elites’ dismay.
The point is, you don’t need to worry about the truth when you’re in pursuit of something. If it gets you what you want, it’s the right thing to do it’s your truth that matters. And, because you’re the leader, who the hell are they to question you anyway? As we said, the truth is only the truth insofar as it gets you what you want.
When someone is called a liar, it’s usually not meant in a positive light. As if they’ve done something wrong. But seriously, there are about one hundred definitions for lies: little lies, white lies, black lies, lies by omission, lies to spare someone’s feelings, whoppers, monsters, prevarications, forgeries, identity theft, untruths, lies of commission, fabrications, errors, restructuring, denial, minimization, and exaggeration, just to name a few. With all of these definitions, how can this be something that is wrong? Clearly, it’s a leadership tactic that you must employ.
As a leader, you have to use all the resources at your disposal. Lying is a really good one, and more importantly, it’s effective. And it’s effective mainly because no one expects leaders to do it, and with the element of surprise, you are successful with it more often than not. If someone does dare to question or confront you, the key is to do one of two things. The first is to own it quickly, explain why it was the right thing to do, then apologize and move on (meaning don’t give it another thought). The important thing here is to show why it was the right thing to do: it was a means to an end that was justified. The second is to absolutely deny that you lied and make them think they misunderstood, or, if that doesn’t work, just blame someone else. Never admit guilt—that is just a losing strategy.
Remember that all great leaders lie. How else would they have gotten where they are? Take the email at the head of this chapter for example. No one living in San Diego wants to move to North Dakota, even if they do want a white Christmas. But when someone in authority tells you this is the truth; you give it a second look. Then you look for further proof that this might in fact be true. (And let’s be clear, you can find any and all points of view on the Internet because conspiracy theories and fake news rule the day.) Before long, you’re actually believing that you want to move to North Dakota for a white Christmas, and, oh by the way, for half the pay. See how well that worked?
As a leader, the key is not to give too much information at once. Don’t get yourself tripped up right out of the chute. Leave enough wiggle room that you can just make stuff up as needed. Truth is your friend but stick to it only as long as it serves your purpose.
Let’s Get Real
The truth is an absolute imperative to great leadership. There are no exceptions to this rule. This does not mean complete and total transparency at all times because you need to be sensitive to privacy and timing and use strategy and tactics to communicate effectively to get the most positive result and reaction. But when you do speak, you must speak the absolute truth and every word that leaves your mouth, or your keyboard must be impeccable.
Most human beings default to a trust state when it comes to the internal assessment of leadership. Until that trust is broken. From the very first time that trust is broken, regardless of how minor the break in trust, the default state of those being led will be fear, mistrust, suspicion, and doubt. As a defense mechanism, those you lead will hunt for and expect lies and untruths, changing the dynamic in a way that can never be repaired. Truthfulness and trustworthiness are the most valuable characteristics of a great leader and should be protected and revered at every step. If not, your lack of these qualities will precede you in every step you take. The result: an abandonment and forfeiture of leadership forever.