The first duty of every leader is to the truth.
There is no faster method to completely undermine the efforts of your smartest people than to obfuscate, distract, distort, or dissemble. There’s no more egregious waste than that of resources dedicated to the pursuit of a false premise.
“Good deception” or leading an enemy on, is an important part of strategy from time to time, but to mislead your own people, publicly disagree with allies and the best minds in your own community about facts, and disparage those who utilize the truth to prepare properly – that’s a path toward ruin.
Many leaders idolize Sun Tzu’s Art of War and share his quote: “A military operation involves deception. Even though you are competent, appear to be incompetent. Though effective, appear to be ineffective,” to justify dishonesty, especially when there are matters of national security at hand.
The quote is abused without remembering the MOST important lesson Sun Tzu taught: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting,” and the second most important lesson from Sun Tzu: “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
To distort the truth is to draw vital resources away from the real battle toward a false front. Painting a false rosy image places those most trusting of a leader in the most danger.
What greater lesson can be learned from a leader who doesn’t respect or trust his people with the truth than that he believes them to be utterly incapable of handling the truth? What other conclusion can be drawn than that the leader is telling you: you’re on your own.
When a leader lies to you, they’re insulting your intelligence. They’re insulting your courage and convictions. They’re insulting your competence. And worse, they’re limiting your freedom to make better choices.
Lying is the result of fear and weakness, not courage, and certainly not compassion.