Post Truth: Dishonest Leadership by Another Name

December 9, 2016
December 9, 2016 Amy Burns

We can call it post truth but it’s just dishonest leadership by a different name.

Bernie Sanders, Vermont senator and former presidential candidate, branded US President-elect Donald Trump “a pathological liar”. The New York Times shone a light on his lies about the popular vote. If that seems too partisan to you, check out Politifact, the independent fact-checking website that rates Trump as making true statements 4% of the time. Compare that to a combined score where his statements are “mostly false”, “false” and “pants on fire” at 70%.

Thing is, Trump’s not the only one who’s a fan of dishonest leadership. National Geographic’s show on climate change, The Years of Living Dangerously, tells us that in Nevada and Florida energy companies are actively campaigning to eliminate solar energy. In Florida the utility-backed Consumers for Smart Solar launched a petition to let state and local regulators decide on the future of solar. The problem? It was a look-a-like petition to Floridians for Solar Choice that would allow independently run solar installations across the state. The result? Confused consumers sign the Consumers for Smart Solar petition thinking they’re advocating full solar choice.

It’s probably good for the short term profits of those energy companies, but the dishonest leadership means trust (already in short supply) is eroded, in companies and in our societies.

A title doesn’t make someone a good leader, it’s a mindset: a way of looking at the world. And the first place we start leading—the first person we lead—is ourselves. We all know if we’re lying. We feel that sharp pang of inauthenticity.

Eight years ago I found myself living a life that wasn’t authentic. When I pulled the emergency brake on that life I realized how dishonest leadership is a short term strategy. It’s when I began to focus on my own leadership mindset.

Our professional lives are no different, but we often don’t take the risk to speak out when we know our business or our leaders are being dishonest. Leadership isn’t just about the people at the very top, it’s about people throughout an entire organization or country, leading in their sphere of influence.

For me that’s the mindset we need as our world lurches toward an uncertain future ripe with dishonest leadership. There will always be demagogues willing to take advantage of those left behind by things like globalization; by those who feel bullied by an establishment that has long since stopped working for them.

Leadership isn’t about exploiting the desperation of others. A leadership mindset is about showing others what they’re capable of becoming.

If people want to follow us that’s not a game it’s a privilege. It’s a time for selflessness; for doing what’s in the best interests of all, not the few.

There’s a question I think a leader needs to ask themselves several times a day. It’s a simple question with what should be a simple answer. It’s this: “Now that people are following you, are you proud of where you’re leading them?”


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