A simple concept, often used in troubling ways. I’ve just come back from the movie Fair Game, based on actual events which gave rise to the American invasion and war in Iraq. A simple phrase used by President George W Bush described as a fact that the Iraqis had purchased uranium from Niger. This was to support the proposition, now discredited, that the Iraqis were building a nuclear bomb.  Joe Wilson, a former Ambassador played by Sean Penn knew this to be a lie – not just something that wasn’t supported – but something that enquires had established didn’t happen. So what do to?

Amy Gallo in her ‘When you think the strategy is wrong’ lists three things to do before disagreeing:

  • Understand the big picture – use your networks to understand the political complexities and assumptions used
  • contextualise your concerns – what is it about me that gives me some concern? What am I feeling?
  • Ask others for input – look to your peers and others. Explain your concerns and get other’s perspectives

These events are tragic. Countless dead and I doubt the world is any safer now than it was 10 years ago. It seems trivial to say that getting as close to the truth as you can before starting a war, might be a good idea. And if you know that one has or is about to be started based on a lie, how far do you go? Especially if those you need to confront include some of the most powerful men on the planet.

Earlier this week as I was driving into my local cafe (well the carpark) a van being driven enthusiastically with some urgency drove out: Chinese Christian Truth Church  read the signage on the side.

In a leadership role dealing with the complexities of human behaviour, change and differing mental models makes dealing with the truth, well, not really the point.

Keeping your "truth" speeches in the right place

How a team is put together, performs, strategises, implements, deals with adversity are not simple right-wrong propositions. But if there is a truth: something indisputable, the results, the findings, especially if it’s simply communicated, it can be really important for leaders to express it. And that might mean expressing both up and down something quite unpalatable.

I feel a twinge of fundamentalism when I hear someone express their views as the truth. Occasionally it has a more Monty Pythonesque feel about it, like the van, but we need to take some care. Honest we must be, but pushing forward that your honesty is in fact the truth should be saved for mission critical moments. 

Strange thought really: be honest, but spare the truth talks. Like Joe Wilson did, when it mattered. John Lennon’s Imagine played soothingly on the drive home. Beautiful song. Now that is the truth!


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