In one of Mike Myatt’s latest articles for Forbes online, entitled “9 Reasons to Lead in a No-Spin Zone,” this quote caught my attention because it describes quintessential leaders: “The reality is the best leaders are also absolutists when it comes to truth – they view truth as a non-negotiable.” And the first of Myatt’s reasons for this absoluteness is that telling the truth is a habit.

This trait of unwavering, habitual truthfulness is one of the components I identify as being a trust-builder and being viewed as worthy of trust in my book, Building Trust and Being Trustworthy, but what does it mean and what does it look like?

Because we live in a world where every sector of it spins us, angles us, manipulates us, and lies to us 24/7, quintessential leaders stand out because they themselves make a conscious decision to refuse to spin, angle, manipulate, and lie and they refuse to buy into other people doing it and will call them on it.

Why do quintessential leaders refuse to participate and condone this type of behavior? Because they have developed the habit of telling the truth no matter what and no matter what the consequences. This is part of their character, of who they are.

Let’s face it. When you’ve screwed up, and screwed up big, and we’ve all done it from time to time, it may seem like not telling the truth is the easiest way to cushion the blow and cushion the fallout.

spin-zone-illusionBut it’s not – and this is what quintessential leaders have proven, have internalized, and know to be fact – because the longer the truth is hidden and the wider the net of deceit and illusion is spread, the quicker the corrosion and loss of trust, usually permanent, happens.

And without trust, the ability to lead has been, at best, compromised, and at worst, destroyed.

I often think about King David in the Bible – a man after God’s own heart in the sum total of his life – and how the corrosive effect the lies and deception about the affair with Bathsheba, which eventually led to murder, negatively impacted the rest of his reign as king of Israel (II Samuel 11 and II Samuel 12). 

I don’t know how long the lies and deception went on, but it was at least more than nine months, because the child of the affair was already born, and it may have been as long as the time it would have taken for the son he had with Bathsheba to be weaned (two or three years of age).

Although David finally told the truth when Nathan confronted him and he repented wholeheartedly before God, there is strong evidence during the rest of his reign as king that he had permanently destroyed the trust of those closest to him (his family, his generals, and his army, most notably), a life-long consequence we see as a common theme in many of the psalms that David wrote.

That’s why telling the truth must be a character-based, uncompromised habit in our lives. Everything except the truth becomes easier the more you do it until that becomes a habit.

The reality is that the spinning, angling, manipulative, lying world we live in has habitually substituted something else for the truth so much as a matter of course that it is completely unaware that its habit is now one of lying. And that’s why it’s so confused and surprised that there’s no trust to be found.

As quintessential leaders, we must maintain and strengthen the habit of truth-telling. It will always have increasing opposition, increasing criticism, and sometimes what may seem like dire consequences.

But losing trust and not being trustworthy is more costly than all the opposition, all the criticism, all the dire consequences anyone can throw at us. Because our character – who and what we are – is the only thing we’ll take out of this life.

What do you want yours to look like?

  1. […] As discerners, we have to continually make informed, knowledgeable, and irrefutable choices about what’s true and what’s false, what’s constructive and what’s destructive, what’s helpful and what’s […]


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