Why do powerful people find it easy to lie?
The Character Training Institute defines the character quality of truthfulness as “Earning future trust by accurately reporting past facts.” Linking truth to trust is obvious…right?
Consider the power a leader enjoys when others place confidence in them and as they rely on such key qualities as fairness, truthfulness, and honor.
Consider the responsibility a leader assumes when others place something in their care whether it is their hope, career, retirement savings, or creativity.
Future trust is the result of current truthfulness regarding past history.
During a recent radio interview, the host wanted to discuss the role of executive coaching. “What pro athlete is often cited as an example of someone who uses a coach to insure top performance?” I asked. (The answer appears to be Tiger Woods.)
The question then became, “What if Tiger Woods engaged another coach, not to help him master his golf game but the game of life?”
This is just one example and not intended to kick Tiger in his difficult time. We will never know how his story could have been different.
How at risk is truthfulness as a core quality of today’s leader?
Dana Carney raises a question that may be on everyone’s mind these days in her Harvard Business Review Powerful People Are Better Liars. Carney is an assistant professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business.
The key finding of her research may confirm something you have already witnessed and it is this:
“A sense of power buffers individuals from the stress of lying and increases their ability to deceive others.”
Whether elite athletes, politicians, or business leaders the ability to not tell the truth and not flinch seems to be an acquired “skill” of the most powerful. Carney says her study shows
“…that if you give people power, they’re more comfortable lying, and it will be harder to tell they’re doing it.”
When it comes right down to it, telling the truth is a matter of character.
Character-based leadership, is that what we are looking for?
How important is truthfulness to you?