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How to Become More Honest as a Leader

Honesty is deceptive.

Like a skilled magicians, we manipulate the truth.

Take, for example, sleight of hand, or for the blog’s sake, “sleight of mind.” And imagine a close-up of a magician who is manipulating your thinking with psychology, timing, and misdirection. 

ONLY this time, you are the magician — playing tricks on yourself!

This is the game we play every day with ourselves, with others, and with our circumstances. However, honesty as a leader is very crucial to accomplishing your vision.

What Does Honesty As a Leader Include?

Honesty with yourself 

Unfortunately, honest self-evaluation is one of the hardest skills to learn. Psychology Today suggests when getting honest about our traits and habits — and not tying them to our worth as human beings — we can work to change what’s in our control. Embracing your own challenges and failings does wonders. Being able to admit you’ve failed and acknowledging your shortcomings is freeing.

Honesty with others

This is what Jack Welch calls candor. “He believes that if you are afraid of candor, then you don’t have the guts to be an effective leader. You are going to surround yourself with ‘yes’ people who will say what you want to hear instead of saying the truth. It’s easy, to tell the truth. It’s difficult to tell the whole truth.” Candor is required to lead and allows us to build trust with our teams.

Honesty with your circumstances

Consider the Stockdale paradox as described in Jim Collins’s book, Good To Great. “Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” Two things are required — you must be brutally honest about your current reality while at the same time believing you will overcome in the end! Simple in theory — difficult in practice!

What Can You Do To Increase Your Honesty As a Leader?

  • Set aside time to evaluate your life. Consider categories like physical, spiritual, relational, financial, or professional health. Where do you need to get real about the challenges and habits you’ve formed? What is one area can you tackle over the next 90 days? What can you do this month? This week? or Today? to move forward?
  • Who is one person in your life (family, work, community) you need to have an honest conversation with? This is what I like to call “speaking the truth in love” — meaning you care enough about this person to speak into their life. Where can you display candor in a timely and emphatic way?
  • What is the most challenging circumstance in your life? How can you embrace this challenge and develop a growth mindset in light of the difficulty? Where are emotions clouding your thinking and preventing you from action?

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About the Author: Josh Etress is the Director of Business Development at WildSparq, located in Birmingham, AL, and is committed to helping companies and organizations Enhance Culture and Multiply Leaders. You can contact Josh directly at