Lying Leaders and Smart Staff


I can bet everyone reading has witnessed live presentations either in person or by phone where their senior leadership get up and espouse a bucket of lies while spinning a narrative that doesn’t exist other than in this leader’s mind. The staff sits and listens to the words and must control their laughter in the reality gap.

These leaders want to believe things are working well, and so they feel that if they speak as if it is going well that somehow the reality is different. They know dang well that what they are saying is not based in fact, but rather in fantasy. But could they really come out and say, “our culture is changing and not in a good way.” Well, yes they can and yes they should.


Imagine you are in the audience of your company and listening to the CEO talk about the company.

(Imagine that each of the thoughts in the parenthesis below is your thoughts.)

CEO: “Everyone is excited about the upcoming merger and is looking forward to the company’s expanded capabilities” (Maybe you are since it was announced you are being retained, but we have not been told if we have jobs.)

CEO: “Our New Training Department is up and running with new programs available to all employees.” (And when is this going to happen, because it is not happening now?)

CEO: “The results of the employee opinion survey were all positive with improved scores over last year.” (They must not be including my feedback this year.)

CEO: “We have some of the best managers at all levels that are respected by their staff and work well with others.” (Have you met most of the managers around here?)


In my travels in the world of Performance Improvement, I have found very few honest leaders. Most feel they need to project a vision rather than speak about reality. If they only realized that this sends a false message that they are happy with how things are working now so there is no need to change.

99.9% of employees know when they are being lied to, and each time it happens the leader loses more credibility and respect. Each time a leader lies they send a direct message to staff that they are too stupid to know better so no harm no foul.

Have you ever noticed how some leaders last longer than others? I’m not talking success necessarily, but I am talking about length of service. The honest ones do better and last longer than the lying ones.

Make a list of your leaders and divide them into two columns with those that lie to me on one side and those that tell the truth even if it means delivering bad news on the other side. Now, which column of names do you respect more?

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