Leaders should not lie. That is obvious. Should they “spin”?
We live in the age of spin. We use the term lightly. Companies and politicians hire firms to create favorable spin and minimize negative spin.
In the old days it wasn’t called spin. It was called propaganda. Propaganda was what those evil communist officials told their citizens to help keep them in line.
I grew up believing that what my elected officials told me was true. I might have been a little naive, but by and large, I could count on highly placed leaders to tell the truth.
Today, what’s the difference between spin and propaganda? I’ve come to think the difference is in whom is telling it: if the “good guys” play fast and loose with the facts, it is spin. If the “bad guys” do it, it is propaganda.
It appears our leader lied about Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch. Lynch testified as much in front of a House committee. She never wanted to be considered a hero, but evidently the government thought she needed to be one, so they spun her story.
Pat Tillman was already a hero when he volunteered to serve. Getting killed by friendly fire would have been a PR crisis, so people were told to lie about what happened. The truth came out anyhow. Pat Tillman is still a hero. Those who contrived a plan of deceit are zeros.
Do we stop believing our elected officials? In the sixties I was admonished to trust no one over thirty. Are our kids learning to trust no one in a position of authority?
What are we, leaders with or without titles, to do? Some ideas:
1.) Tell the truth. That is your choice. Stop taking spin lightly. If you don’t like it as much as I don’t like it, then don’t do it. I can’t make anybody else tell the truth, but I can choose to communicate spin-free myself.
2.) Be vigilant. Don’t discredit everything others say, but remain open to getting the information to confirm or deny the validity of their statements. Don’t accept everything at face value, especially spin-prone issues. The good guys and the bad guys are all using various forms of spin these days.
3.) If you’ve gone on record and since changed your mind or had new information presented, communicate your revised position. It generally increases credibility when a leader says “I used to think this, now I don’t and here’s why…”
4.) Hold elected officials accountable. We as citizens can’t always directly control what happens but we can certainly influence how it is handled. We need to let our leaders know that spin as it is currently practiced sucks, and we’re not going quietly into the night when we find out we’ve been lied to.
5.) Make truth telling a sacred value in your organization. Lead the way for honest, compassionate communication. If you really care for someone, you tell the truth, even when it isn’t easy. This is a difficult lesson of relationships and leadership.