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What’s Your Leadership Truthiness Quotient?

August 5, 2012
Updated January 15, 2015

Your correspondent has been a student of leadership and the effects of globalization on people and organizations for some 25 years. However, he’s been a student of humor for much longer. A favorite show was Stephen Colbert, whose stinging political satire was a joy to watch in a world full of talking heads and shrinking intelligence. Sadly, the Colbert Report ended at the end of December 2014, in preparation for Colbert to take over the reins from David Letterman in 2015.

When Colbert started his program in October 2005 (spinning off from Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show which he joined in 1997), he coined the word “Truthiness,” the core of his popular “The Word” segment. Colbert’s take on his invented word was that “…truth that comes from the gut, not books.”

Okay, that makes sense intuitively. We can relate to that. But how about “Truthiness” when it comes to leadership? That led your corespondent to create a Truthiness Quotient– HITS, which comprises four essential elements. These come from the gut, our inner being–not from books.

1) Humbleness:

You have a good grasp that your knowledge base, while perhaps impressive to others, is but a mere speck of sand in a mammoth and growing world body of knowledge. What you don’t know you don’t know vastly exceeds what you actually know. Think about that for a moment.


2) Integrity:

When you open your mouth and make a statement of whatever sort, you mean what you say and say what you mean. In short, are your words and actions congruent?

Sounds easy?

Give it try and ask one of your followers or peers to keep careful track.

Can your family, friends and co-workers take to the bank what you promise? Are you what the late Stephen Covey called a “promise keeper?”


3) Transparency:

How open are you? Are there two “yous,” one side that you present to others while keeping the other one for other purposes?

When you make decisions, do you share all the information you possess with your co-workers and staff? Or do you manipulate and hold information in order to achieve your non-transparent objectives?


4) Sacrifice:

If you mean what you say and say what you mean, then you have no problem taking the hit for the team when necessary, especially if you’re the official leader. In the military, especially special ops groups such as the Navy Seals, team leaders are the first to go in the door during a firefight. They don’t hesitate to sacrifice themselves when necessary. The last thing they do is expect a team member to lay down his life while the leader stays in the background.

Where are you when the going gets tough and dirty? Are you at the front of the line, ready to take the first hit?

Alas, there’s no contrived scoreboard on which you can determine a point system and where you stand in relation to HITS.

We’re all adults. The aim of this post is to encourage your personal inquiry and reflection as part of your leadership journey.

If you’re living your Truthiness Quotient to the fullest (something YOU have to figure out), then you’re practicing a form of servant leadership. This is where you have created a loyal followership. However, there are times when you know that you must follow one of your followers because of the circumstances.


The only test of leadership is that somebody follows.

Robert K. Greenleaf


Photo by S.Butler (Saints Rest Beach, Saint John New Brunswick, Canada)


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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 15, 2012 1:02 pm

    Thanks very much, Lynne. Your perspectives from abroad are so welcome because they help frame the leadership conversation from a global level. I just finished reading “Revolution 1989,” an excellent book that takes the reader through the events leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Fascinating story about self-empowerment in the face of political corruption, manipulation and state brutality.

  2. August 15, 2012 10:29 am

    Very interesting post. I think it’s true that in order to be a leader, someone has to follow. However, the more I thought about it, I think that different societies create leadership in different ways, and with different criteria. I think what you have described above is how we create it in America.

    I have found, however, that this approach does not work in the Middle East and North Africa. Your points about (3), Transparency, really caught my attention! “Manipulating and holding onto information in order to achieve non-transparent objectives” seems like the main thing which is going on here! And I’ve never seen anyone put it into words as clearly as this.

    So why are they doing this, is the question. I would answer it by saying that in the Middle East and North Africa, people are not creating leadership by making people WANT to follow them. They are creating it (the fact of people following them) by creating a climate of FEAR and POWER (which causes people to follow them, but in a grumbling, “stab-them-in-the-back,” when they are away, kind of following). The Arab Spring is the ultimate expression on a larger scale of what seems to be going on here even in small, private companies.

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