Everyone likes to be a truth-teller when everything is looking rosy. But the real test of a leader’s character is found when they must speak truth in the tough times.
Who doesn’t like to be the one who stands in front of the room and announces that the goals have been exceeded? Who doesn’t like to be the one who meets with the board and announces that the plan has been a resounding success?
Being a truth-teller in the good times is relatively easy.
But the real leadership test comes when times are tough. Can you still stand and deliver the message when the news isn’t so good? Can you be a truth-teller when goals are not being met, when strategies are floundering, and when teams are struggling?
Leadership is all about rising up and speaking truth in these challenging seasons. But it will mean proving the ability to speak truth in three of the most difficult circumstances…
1. When the truth makes you look weak
Can you stand up in front of your constituents and say, “We’re missing our numbers. We’re falling behind our plan. And I am responsible for this.”
When spoken out of genuine humility, this kind of truth-telling can project tremendous strength.
2. When the truth makes you look fallible
The ability to say, “I don’t know how to do this; the truth is, I need your help” is one of the most profound forms of truth-telling possible.
The best leaders know that, when times are tough, it’s necessary to openly acknowledge when it’s time for a little help.
3. When the truth makes you look wrong
Admitting mistakes is one of the hardest things for many leaders to do.
But when times are tough, saying “I was wrong” is one of the most important words a leader can utter.
Rather than making excuses or assigning blame effective leaders would rather be wrong and truthful, than to appear correct through deception.
The ability to be a truth-teller is core to the character of a strong leader.
But if you want to test your own truth-telling mettle, remember that test isn’t taken when all of the lines are going up and to the right.
If you want to put your character to the test, be willing to stand up when times are tough.
And speak the truth.