It doesn’t matter if it is a nation of 300 million or a company of 30 people, if you want to lead, then you have to tell the truth. Truth is not something you read about in fairy tales. Truth is the single winning ingredient for every successful campaign, every organization, every leader and every relationship.
All Mitt Romney had to do was to speak the truth. But since he could not make his mind up on what version of truth to follow, he flip-flopped and faced several allegations of misconstruing the truth in his advertisements, speeches and debates. It is a known fact that he was the best bet for the Republican Party. He was an agent of change in their wing. But he underestimated the impact his lies would have on the electoral results.
I admit that there were times in his campaign when even a true liberal like myself could have considered him more seriously, if only he would have spoken the truth. But he was blind to the fact that politics is not just about knowing the punch words and waving to the crowds. You need to win people’s hearts by being honest with them. They want truth from you. Being true is not a nice to have when it comes to winning elections, it is a must have. I hope he learnt his lesson yesterday.
As a leader you have to speak the truth. Your followers are trusting you with their future and their hopes. The least you need to do is be honest with them. You have to tell them the truth, even if it is harsh and even if it is fatal.
In my career I have seen quite a few projects and I have some idea about why projects fail. The primary reason for failure is the inability of the core project group to tell the truth to their customers and the stakeholders. When the project manager is not honest about the progress of the project and keeps showing the status green when in reality it is quite red, he automatically signs himself up for failure. You cannot paint a rosy picture when in reality you are in deep mud. It does not help.
The same applies to a marriage or for that matter any relationship. Trust is the pillar of any sort of connection you make with any individual. As you grow old, you grow more cynical, and you can easily tell the liars from the honests. You pick your people, your circles and your relationships based on this very fundamental attribute. How do I trust you, if all you have given me is lies?
Truth is a weapon and a cause. Gandhi fought with truth on his side, Nelson Mandela fought for truth, Aun Saan Suu Kyi is fighting for truth. The Dalai Lama is fighting for truth. What was Romney smoking when he planned his campaign around a pile of lies and a cloud of unknowns?
But the verdict is out, and we need to move forward, and yet learn from the past. If there is something we all need to learn from this election, it is the fact that there are still a little under 50% of Americans who did believe in Romney. (Or maybe they were too desperate and could not find another name on the ballot to vote for.). These people are around us. And we need to help them see the truth. A man sitting in Washington cannot make that change happen at a grassroot level. You and me have to make that change.
We need to value truth and cherish it and hold it in high regard, and teach our future generations to value it. Because if 50% of this nation still cannot understand the significance of truth, I am sad to say we might have won the battle but the war is yet to be won.
But winning a war is not easy. You have to lose many battles before you see your efforts result in something desirable. My father tried running a business as a true man and he failed. He was too fair for the people he worked with and his youth and my childhood were ripped off, while he fought for his principles.
I wish I could tell him what an impression it made on his daughters when sitting in our living room, he coached his medical representatives to use truth as a weapon when they went to make a sale. The Sarabhais and the Wyeths had huge marketing budgets to offer. His company, on the other hand, only had results. Successful results of the drugs doing their job. I heard him ask the rep to tell the doctor true stories of his mother who used the meds and the changes he had noticed in her overall health. You can say he was naive. But he was only trying to teach the young rep to seek pride in speaking the truth. Instead of depending on folders full of colored images of the drug with some punch words that the competitors were offering to their reps as a sales tool, he told the rep to use truth as his weapon.
And although he lost the battle and the company to some tricksters, he won the war. He not only impacted my life, but also that of many others. He played his part and it is time for me to play mine.
I hope you celebrated the victory of truth last night. I did pop open a champagne!