Jan
16

Truth. There's No Hiding It.

by  Erin Schreyer  |  Leadership Development

People fascinate me.  It must be why I love “people-watching.”  (Nothing’s better than a busy airport or a city-center at lunchtime!!)

Celebrities and other “famous” people are especially fascinating to me, simply because of the effect they have on others.  I’m amazed by the impact of their endorsements and/or public opinions – how they can sway people and or affect a buying decision, lifestyle choice, or in some cases, a belief.

lancearmstrong

Lance Armstrong is one of those influential people.  He has inspired millions with his comeback story, time and time again; first beating cancer and coming back to win the Tour De France, then repeatedly winning it afterwards, at his age and without the aid of drugs as much of his competition had admitted to leveraging.  His repeated denial assured us of his innocence.  The tests assured us of his integrity.

It’s all going to change on Thursday in his tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey.  He is supposedly going to admit everything, nothing held back.  Finally.  After years of lying, denial, and what must have been quite an elaborate cover-up.

And I find myself fascinated….

Why admit to everything now?  Why did he fight it so vehemently for years up until now?  Was it worth it, or was the burden simply too heavy to carry?  How could he look in the mirror or sleep soundly at night, knowing his words and actions were so blatantly fraudulent?  What are the implications to his charitable Livestrong organization, or for his children?

I wonder what Oprah will ask.  I wonder how he’ll respond.

And I wonder how the world will respond too.  How will people react?

I’m sure some will throw Armstrong under the proverbial bus and back it up a few times for good measure.  (Isn’t it odd how some people enjoy seeing others fail?)  I’m sure some will give him grace, knowing we all make mistakes (over and over and over, though we may try…)

One thing I think we can all do is withhold our judgment (what good does that do, anyway?) and simply learn from watching his experience.  I’m not sure we’ll ever really know all the details, but are they even necessary at this point?

What we can all take away from this is a great lesson: the truth always finds its way out.

 Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and truth. ~Buddha

Truth is the foundation of trust.  Trust is the glue of relationships.  Relationships are at the crux of leadership.  One cannot be a great leader without speaking, living, and respecting truth.  It’s simply not possible, because truth will eventually come out, and then the dominoes will begin to fall.

Perhaps this situation with Armstrong will inspire people to embrace truth more fully.  Maybe people will become more comfortable with their flawed humanness.  Possibly, some will bring admissions of their own forward, before things get too far.  Others may diminish the embellishments and embrace real honesty and transparency in their communication and actions.

What about you?  How can you embrace truth more fully?  How can you lead others to be more comfortable with truth?  What can you do to take something positive from this “people-watching” experience?

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What People Are Saying

Mike Henry  |  16 Jan 2013  |  Reply

Thanks for the great post. The most productive, and challenging question is, what can we learn from this? You suggest a very key point: the truth will be known. If the truth isn’t known, then we’re not leaders, we’re manipulators. People do their best when they’re free to move. Lance may have lost his ability to influence people at all. Costly lesson. I don’t want to treat it as if it’s not a valuable lesson just because I didn’t pay anything. It’s a costly lesson.

Thanks again for the great post. Mike…

Page Cole  |  16 Jan 2013  |  Reply

Thanks Erin. I’ve had my own share of stupid choices, so I’m in no position to judge others. The last time I checked, I didn’t think perfection was necessary for grace; quite the opposite. It’s only as someone screws up are the opened up to the opportunity to find grace, and those who’ve been disappointed or wounded by the actions of that person have the opportunity to offer it.

No excuses accepted, because none are necessary. It’s an opportunity for Lance Armstrong to show America and the World one more time what a champion is… one is big enough to admit he’s been small, brave enough to admit he acted in fear, and transparent enough to confess that the darkness of his life choices cast a shadow over all that was good he had accomplished…

and hopeful enough to believe that grace is still amazing…

Erin Schreyer  |  16 Jan 2013  | 

Hi, Page. I totally agree with your sentiments, and that’s exactly why I encouraged a response from readers that focuses on ourselves and what we can learn. I’m certain there are great lessons and things that can be positively reinforced.

It’s truly not our place to judge. We know who will do that in the end. That said, trust is earned with people, and I do think it will take a long time for people to trust and respect his character again. With time and consistency, I’m certain he can do good work that will re-build what he has broken.

Erin Schreyer  |  16 Jan 2013  |  Reply

Mike, I love your point: If the truth isn’t known, then we’re not leaders, we’re manipulators. It’s so true. Leadership starts with trust and builds from there. It will be interesting to see what this experience inspires in others, and I’m eager to see how Lance handles it. Perhaps if he begins to do the right thing and remain consistent with that behavior, then he can redeem his integrity over time…

Randy Conley  |  16 Jan 2013  |  Reply

I appreciate your perspective Erin. I’ve been struggling with what to make of the Lance Armstrong situation. Grace is, and forever will be, amazing, as Page mentions. None of us are in a position to judge him and say that we are “better” than he is as a person. Yet I also think it’s important to examine his behavior and learn from his example of what NOT to do. It appears that he intentionally deceived the public for many years and went out of his way to control, coerce, and intimidate anyone who stood in his path. To me that sounds much more despicable, and even downright evil, than someone who makes a series of bad decisions or uses bad judgment. Regardless of where you come down on Armstrong’s behavior, we can certainly learn alot from watching him!

Randy

Erin Schreyer  |  16 Jan 2013  |  Reply

Hi, Randy. Oh, I’m so with you!!! The stories of his manipulation and fear tactics seem mob-like and hard-to-believe. It’s nothing less than despicable if true. To your point, evil.

Again, I hope people can focus on what THEY can take away from this. Whether it’s lying, cheating, coercing, covering up…whatever. Truth still prevails. Regardless.

It’s something really worth thinking about. How can we each embrace truth more fully and how can we encourage that same thing in others?

Thanks for your comment. I always appreciate your work and perspectives.

Tom Rochford  |  18 Jan 2013  |  Reply

Erin, I too was taken by Lance’s story and I defended him for reasons of his triumph over cancer and that no physical proof was ever offered about drug use.

So indeed, why now? I have no answer but I’m sure that whatever he says is not anything that I’ll believe. That is the trouble with lying. If you do and want forgiveness, act quickly while people still have an ounce of respect and trust in you. Though you’ve lost of lot of integrity in their eyes your future actions will be more easily seen as you repenting and proving that you merely slipped and have no desire to lie again.

Thank you for your insight.

Fuel  |  19 Jan 2013  |  Reply

In a global economy, business practices are different.

In India, if someone cheats you, it’s your fault that you were cheated.

It is documented that China has stolen a lot of intellectual property from other countries and has become an economic powerhouse.

We live, work, compete, and lead in this global economy. How do we compete fairly when many are cheating? When the cheating is supported by their government? When it is ingrained in other’s culture?

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