[management by God] such a lonely word

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. director of family ministry at st. edward's episcopal church. president of fistbump media, llc.

October 12, 2010

One thing that disgusts me these days is how comfortable people have become with lying. Watch an episode or two of Survivor, and you’ll see that deception is not only accepted, but also expected!

People frequently use deception to get ahead. Additionally, they hide their thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Now I’m not saying that everyone’s bad because nobody that tells the truth at all anymore. But it’s obvious that the idea of not being truthful is becoming more and more acceptable.

However, as is usually the case, an exceptional leader must be different than the norm. As we look at the second qualification for the manager-leader, we come across the requirement to not be double-tongued.

This term that we translate into “double-tongued” is the Greek word dilogos. This verb describes the activity of saying one thing to one person, and then saying something different to another person. Today we call that, “talking out of both sides of your mouth.” Or, quite simply, it is the act of being dishonest. So there is this sense that the manager-leader must not only deliver a consistent message, but also be honest with everyone in their communications.

Billy Joel even sang a song about this very issue, and it goes something like this…

Honesty, it’s such a lonely word,
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty, it’s hardly ever heard,
But mostly what I need from you.

These lyrics ring so true, even in the business world. As a leader, honesty is something that your people need from you. They can get lies and half-truths and secrets in lots of other places, but if you’re going to be someone that they can put their trust into, then they need you to be honest with them. But when being honest, one must remember the goal of communicating, especially in a leader-follower relationship. Our communications should build each other up, and not tear each other down.

But what if you have to tell someone something bad or difficult, and you’re worried that they might take offense to what you’re saying?

In situations like these, it’s very easy to justify telling “little white lies” in order to protect people. But the bottom line is that lying, even if it’s done out of right motives, is never a right way to communicate, especially from a leader. This is where creativity in communication comes into play. Even while delivering the “bad news”, you must find ways to use that conversation to build someone up.

For example, if someone isn’t meeting job expectations, then in your conversation with them discuss how working on certain skills will improve their chance of success. Then be specific in developing an action plan for improvment that everyone can get excited about. But then don’t turn around and speak negatively about that person, but rather talk about how excited you are about their willingness to try new things (or whatever else you can praise them for).

For the manager-leader, this qualification is about making the effort to perfect our communication styles. We must be truthful, but also with the intent of building people up. Double-tongued people will find it difficult to get people to follow them, because they portray themselves as being untrustworthy.

Questions to consider:

  • Do you talk negatively about other people behind their back?
  • Do you regularly find yourself sharing one thing with some people, but not entirely the same story with others?
  • Think about ways that you can verbally build people up directly, but then also find ways to build them up in conversations with other people as well.
  • What sort of impact do you think that you will have on the people around you when they hear through other people the good things that you’ve said about them?

See more from the management by God series!


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[management by God] such a lonely word

by Dan King time to read: 3 min