Leadership Nuggets: Acknowledge the Truth

Three things cannot be long hidden – the sun, the moon and the truth! – Buddha

Have you had a time when someone – be it a colleague, direct report, supplier or friend who was not quite performing or was behaving in ways that was below par?

And yet you found yourself minimizing, negating or making excuses for their behaviour? You would not be the only one! I too have done this on many occasions, much to my own detriment.


Well – we do this for a number of “good” reasons because seeing, acknowledging and taking action on the truth, as we experience it, isn’t always comfortable.

Let me give you a work example.

Leader denial and lack of accountability

Some years back, I coached a senior executive whose direct report was very good at ‘hitting the targets’ but his modus operandi left a lot to be desired.

The feedback and “air-waves” from his team and others consistently was that the he was a bully.

Teamwork, collaboration, empathy, ‘developmental conversations’ did not figure in this person’s language.

What was present was manipulation, veiled and not so veiled threats, pressure tactics and even down right lying when it suited the direct report, which was often

Despite leading a dysfunctional team with lots of turnover and staff rotation, my coachee – his boss – would not fully acknowledge the situation.

Why was this, you may ask?

Well – for starters, this meant having a courageous conversation by my executive who liked being seen as the ‘nice guy.’ Secondly, he liked ‘being liked’ and had developed quite a ‘palsy’ relationship with the direct report. As he put it, the direct report did deliver and made him “look good” to his superiors!

So, my client continued to ignore the behavior, making excuses and minimizing his direct report’s behavior including the feedback that he was receiving from others.

As is usually the case, this state of affairs did not last for too long.

With the arrival of a new CEO who had zero tolerance for such behavior, the division was subsequently re-structured including the departure of both the senior executive and the direct report.

The remaining team members and colleagues who had been most impacted finally experienced relief as they felt freed, without the toxic behaviour, to get on with the job they loved. Furthermore, with the new CEO and a more transparent culture, some of the team members really got to shine and were later promoted to different roles.


In any relationship, be it business or personal, the first step is to see and acknowledge things and situations as they really are.

I totally understand that this can be challenging sometimes. The reasons behind this are many including the need to be liked, being seen as the ‘expert’ at all times, having a sense of control and belonging, status and ‘looking good.’

We settle for “business as is” because seeing the truth typically means that some courageous conversation or change is required.

Human wiring does not allow for change to be embraced easily.

The brain carves grooves based on repeated thinking and actions and “neurons that fire together, wire together.”

Change may not be easy but it is not impossible either. Otherwise all we might as well all turn the lights off now!

“Everything is hard before it is easy” -Goethe

Back to seeing/acknowledging the truth – if this post resonates for you – here are six things you can do.


1)  Evaluate your current reality.

Ask yourself:

· Is there a situation I am currently tolerating? (Or getting feedback about what I don’t really want to hear).

· Where do I need to be more honest and see and acknowledge more fully what is going on?”

· In other words, “What am I pretending not to know?”

As a client said about her colleague, “In hindsight, the truth was there from day one but my ‘then mindset’ did not let me see it!”

2)  Check for values mis-alignment

Ask yourself:

· Are any of my core values being compromised by my lack of acknowledgement or non-action?

· How well am I living my core values and if not, what is this costing me?

A values mis-match or misalignment often is a good indicator of a situation that you may have seen but are not willing to address yet so you become blind to it

3)  Identify the barrier

Ask yourself:

What gets in the way of me being able to see or call the truth of what is going on here?

· What am I resisting?

· Is there a flaw in my thinking regarding any perceived gains?

· What is the cost here?

For example, the dominant thinking could be along the lines that you don’t want to lose this person or that you don’t know how best to deal with it or you are saying to yourself that you just do not have the time! In my own example, the mis-placed refrain was, “Oh well – at least, things are ticking along.” But ticking along at what cost?!

4)   Explore potential gains

Ask yourself:

· What is something that you would gain by addressing this?”

Think about and consider all the things that you and your team, organization, staff would gain if you faced the issue.

5)  Speak to a trusted advisor

· You could help yourself be speaking to a trusted source such as a colleague, close friend, family, coach or mentor.

Getting a detached, objective perspective rarely goes wasted as it expands the picture and gives previously unthought-of of options.

6)  Take the right action

Hopefully having gone through the steps, you will arrive naturally to taking the right action – be it that courageous conversation with self or the other, your own ‘coming home to yourself’ (acknowledging what you had avoided and are now owning up to) or whatever else that is required.

The Gains

There is much to be gained by seeing and addressing the truth of a situation that is detrimental to others and us.

By having that courageous conversation, more possibilities and options open up then when we stay stuck on one way of being.

It also allows the other party to share in a way they may have felt unable to before.

As a wise client put it, “I have learned the importance of intuition and feelings and where possible checking out of what they may be based on, including with the person involved. 

Sometimes we also need to act without having the full information, and give ourselves permission to do so (hard for an over-analyser like me). This is even more critical in the context of safety issues.”

At an individual level – by acknowledging and seeing the truth in the greater context is coming back to your core self. That has to be a soulful act!

At a business level – the team, staff morale and company values and reputation all get strengthened.

And we know what committed, loyal and engaged team members translates to – higher productivity and ultimately profitability.

And most of all, it makes you a more inspired, authentic and “weighty” leader worth following!   Just remember,

“Behaviour is a mirror in which everyone displays his own image.” – Goethe

Make it a positive one for you and all your stakeholders!

(Image courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

But wait there is more! 🙂

A. You may also like this post:

10 winning steps to having a courageous conversation


B. As an emerging leader,  you may wish to download this guide as some areas of focus in your leadership journey.

I have selected 10 areas for you to consider and take action on.

This guide is focusing on the non-technical, softer skills vital for managers and leaders.

Download your free 10 Actions for your leadership development journey.

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