Can You Handle the Truth?
"Have you talked with him?" I asked.
I was interviewing the COO of medium sized company about their corporate culture. We had been discussing her opinion that the CEO was unable to think strategically, but seemed great at micromanaging everyone in the company. In response to my question, she looked blankly at me for a few seconds.
"He can't handle the truth," she said. "He's too insecure. You can't confront him about anything. He either gets super defensive or he falls apart. Either way, he doesn't make any changes and everyone has to walk on egg shells until he's done freaking out."
Unfortunately, this is a common story. As David Fubini writes in his book Hidden Truths: What Leaders Need to Hear But Are Rarely Told, "CEOs rarely get the full story ... they only get told a portion of what they need to know." In general we are reluctant to speak truth to power. It's much easier to say what we think they want to hear. But it does a great disservice to those with the authority and responsibility to make decisions that affect the entire organization.
Since this human reluctance is so common, leaders must do everything they can to overcome it. That starts with being approachable. No one is going to tell you the whole story if they think you can't handle the truth.
Take a courageous step and get an outside opinion. Find an executive coach or even a therapist to help you navigate the ways you might be holding your people back from giving you what you need. Then determine to invite the truth, however uncomfortable it may be.