Useful lessons for business leaders in @Freedland excellent piece about “post-truth” politicians…

….in today’s Guardian. He describes the problem of how to stand up to brazenly dishonest politicians who use a “combination of jokes and bluster…hard to oppose….making an interrogator look like a spoilsport….the brio that can be generated by a sweeping (but false) assertion…the nation’s inner teenager chant in unison: bo-ring.” But politicians do not have the market cornered with this behaviour. It’s rampant in business. On boards and in teams. We’ve all seen it. The joke by the bully in the team, or at the top of it, that makes you think twice before saying nothing about the issue you should have called out. The bluster that allows truths which you know have been dishonoured, especially in annual reviews involving forced distribution, that you should have challenged and didn’t because, as Freedland writes, you will appear like “those pedants still hung up on the facts…their boots barely laced while the lie has spread…”. Marty Baron, the editor of The Washington Post, makes the chilling point: “What has taken hold is an alternate reality….where lies are accepted as truth”. In business, as in politics, this is unsustainable. It may take time, but sooner or later truth will out. But your problem is what to do today. There is only one answer in my view: courage linked to purpose. The courage to call out the lie but to do so in a manner which links the lie to a material risk in achieving objectives or, purpose, along the lines of ….since we have agreed that our objective (purpose) is x and our strategy to achieve it is y, then if we’re saying z is true and if it isn’t then it will jeopardise x, shouldn’t we check z? This isn’t easy. It helps if you have lobbied someone to support you. But bullies are invariably insecure and if you can identify and confront their insecurity, then you have a chance of effecting change. Or not, and in which case leaving is the best option. Doing nothing isn’t. 

Ciaran

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