The Business Leader and the Truth

published in: Leadership

17 Oct

The case

When an employee makes a mistake I visit him/her to show where s/he went wrong.  S/he  denies s/he did the error.  Often s/he tries to prove that there is almost no error or the error is somewhere else.  I dump on her/him all known logic of Archimedes and Pythagoras, but the employee still does not recognize the error.

Stop.  What am I doing?  Wishing to prove I'm right and s/he is wrong, I require the employee to agree with me.  But if s/he agrees, that will hurt her/his pride, self-esteem or his intellect, and s/he will feel humiliated.leader, truth, employee

The goal of the business leader

The goal of the business leader, in the situation described above is to ensure that the employee will not repeat the same mistake in her/his future work (if a reprimand is required, it should be executed as described here). But no less important aspect of the goal is to preserve the goodwill of the employee towards the work process.

A possible approach

Alexander Pope recommends: "Teach others like you do not teach them, present them the unknown as something forgotten!"

Dale Carnegie teaches:"... even if you know with certainty that the employee's statement is wrong - isn’t it better to start with phrases like: I could be wrong.  I often get wrong conclusionsLet’s investigate the facts."  In this situation /in which the error occurred/ what are the possible actions?  Which of them would result in maximum effect?

Isn’t that a respectful way to help an employees to reach the "right" course of action “alone”?  Isn’t that a better approach versus forcing him/her to confess that we are right and he wrong.

Some psychology

Most people are full of prejudices, limited by preconceptions, pride, fear, and envy.  Few of us are objective and obeying to logic.  Therefore, the approach "truth strike" gives poor results in managing the majority of people.


The "truth strike" is my most common error.  It helped me to divide the world to black and white.  Gray and colorful fall into the black colour. White /the objective people / of course was much less than the black ... The "truth strike" hindered me to use the potential of the colorful and gray groups.  Now, 20 years later, I can confidently say that the desire to prove that s/he is right damages his/her leadership skills, because it hurts the communications with many of his/her colleagues and followers.


The truth is often painful.  It can be sustained only by the strong minority of objective persons.  For most people, the truth is a heavy burden.  Because of the majority and in the name of greater efficiency in the long run, the business leader must save the pain of his followers - whenever possible.



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