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The Practice of Honesty

What would happen if we lied less in leadership?

Last week I wrote about some bad teaching I observed. 

And I reflected on how neatly packaged “bite sized next steps” would not be enough to change the problematic instruction.

Real transformation would require a bigger, honest conversation.

It got me thinking about what kind of culture we need in schools if we got serious about having really dynamic and meaningful conversations about growth, change, struggle, disagreements, and the work we really want to accomplish.

Who would we have to become to be leaders that didn’t have to “love sandwich” our feedback to make it palatable? And instead spoke with candor, respect, and care about what we saw and what needs to happen now.

The answer that occurred to me:

  • We’d have to stop lying so much.

If the reality tv star inside of you is indignantly shouting, “Are you calling me a LIAR?”  

I get it.  It’s confronting.

But don't let your reality tv persona shut you down from possible new insight and aligned action.

Many of us, only you can know if this is true for you, lie.  We lie when we tell our child we’ll be in to say goodnight in five minutes and go in for ten minutes later.  We lie by withholding honest insight about a lesson that went off the rails by simply saying, “It was okay.”  We lie when someone asks us how we are and we respond, “fine” all the while feeling stressed, sad, or disappointed about something.

And none of this makes us bad.

It just makes it possible to practice a little more honesty.

The issue I’ve observed with honesty is that many of us have seen it used as an excuse to be cruel.

“I’m just being honest,” has been said on the heels of a deeply hurtful jab or unnecessary share.

And it started corrupting the whole concept of honesty.

If we are recovering our relationship with honesty, I find it best to use your core values as a filter.

As an example, my core values are:

  • Love

  • Joy 

  • Gratitude

  • Service

  • Leadership

I can ask:

  • Is this honesty in service to someone or to myself?

  • Is being honest in this situation the most loving thing I can do?

  • How does being honest in this situation keep me in integrity with my leadership?

When we’re connected to our core values, it’s rare that we’re moving through the world as bulls in the china shop.

If you’re willing to practice greater levels of honesty, here’s a few simple approaches to try:

  1. Instead of a lie or omission, say one completely true thing.

  2. If you don’t know what the truth is (ex: when you’ll say goodnight to your child), remove time or other measures and just state the action you will take.

  3. Notice what telling the truth feels like in your body.  Notice what not telling the truth feels like in your body.

Honesty grounded in core values - let’s try it out and see what shifts.


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