Telling Truth to Authority

Being a great leader means telling the truth, not stifling it. Yet, truth-telling can also have professional consequences. Before you march into the corner office, consider these 10 factors.

It's never easy telling truth to authority and, in many instances, it's not only risky but can be fatal to your job or even your career. Yet, most pundits agree that great leaders should encourage truth telling, not stifle it.

Here are some things to consider before you knock on the door:

1. You probably already know whether your boss will encourage you to say the truth, or whether you are dealing with Francis Underwood.

2. It's best to build as much personal brand equity and power as possible before putting it on the line.

3. Have Plan B. What will you do if you are ignored or, worse case, marginalized or get an adverse performance appraisal.

4. There is a difference between being a truth teller, an eminence grise, and a devil's advocate. You might have more cover being one v the other.

5. Be sure you don't drill holes below the water line.

6. Take the high ground and don't make this about trying to upstage your boss unless you are willing to suffer the consequences.

7. Find trusted partners and allies to hear your ideas in confidence before making them public.

8. If you are the leader, encourage truth telling and avoid retaliation.

9. Come with solutions, not problems.

10. Find other outlets to make your ideas and feelings known that are less threatening within the organization.

Truth-telling and truth-listening is a core entrepreneurial skill. However, some people "just can't handle the truth". Don't be one of them or you'll suffer the same fate as Colonel Nathan Jessup.