What Is The Truth

One thing that political ads remind me of is how frustrating it is to try to believe in and follow someone when honesty is in question. Ad after ad, from both of the major parties, seem to cite fact after fact about how the opponent is misleading voters with claims which are not true. It is no wonder why voter turnout is low. I have heard many people comment that it is foolish to trust any politician, and these kinds of ads certainly contribute to those beliefs. Although I have not looked for the most current research, I would not be surprised if the proverbial used-car salesman is viewed as more trustworthy than today’s “public servants.”

For nearly 30 years we have been involved in surveying people on characteristics they most look for in leaders they admire or would willing choose to follow. Not surprisingly, honesty is currently, and has always been, the number one response,. And yet politicians – at all levels of public office – will put forth claims in ads, which reputable fact checking organizations find to be not entirely correct. Compounding the problem is that there seems to be differing opinions on what exactly a fact actually is these days. It gets messy very quickly, with the result being an increased feeling of prevalent dishonesty.

Think about a workplace where every message had to be scrutinized for truthfulness or correctness. No matter how many speedy ways of communicating you employed, your productivity would virtually come to a standstill. Yes, misleading or incorrect information does get communicated in the work environment, and it is very aggravating and counter-productive. But, the big question to consider about misleading information is this: to what extent was it intentional? When incorrect information is intentionally passed off as the truth, within our own organization or any other with whom we do business, it quickly erodes the commitment we may feel had toward the organization. No one likes to get duped. And I feel as if I am being duped on almost every political ad I see these days.

Sadly, we have come to expect politicians to “stretch the truth, if not outright lie. So we shrug out shoulders, and simply tune out, when the candidates are campaigning. When the intention is to get elected, is it possible, even likely, that candidates will do anything to achieve that end, including providing questionable, if not inaccurate information about their opponents? As much as we may become sick and tired of this onslaught of false advertising, destroying the credibility of the opponent still proves to be one of the most effective strategies for winning an office. So it will no doubt continue. However, it is by no means the best strategy for showcasing one’s capabilities to provide effective leadership in some very difficult circumstances.

Please remember that people want and expect their leaders to be believable, which requires those leaders to be trustworthy. One earns trust from speaking the truth, as tough as it may be sometimes. You have a choice to purposely skew the truth to serve your own agenda, or to be as straightforward as you can be in order to serve others they best way you can. I hope you choose the latter. The world needs more leaders, and less self-serving politicians.

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