Why Truth, Humility, And Patience Are Every Leader's Most Powerful Weapons
I’ve been exposed to a lot throughout my career, some good and some bad. Whether it was during my time as a junior executive at a Fortune 500 company or my near decade-long journey as an entrepreneur and CEO, I’ve experienced just about everything you can think of.
I draw on this experience daily in order to become a stronger leader. As my mentor once told me, “You learn from observing what to do, and what not to do.” As unfortunate as it may be, learning from watching others make mistakes is often the more effective option.
I make a lot of mistakes, but I rarely make the same mistake twice. It breaks my heart when I see people - regardless of whether I like them or not - fall victim to the same mistakes time and time again.
Looking back, I can confidently say that the worst, most destructive scenarios I’ve seen in business are not created by people who make an honest mistake, but by people who make the same unforced errors over and over again.
Put another way, a single mistake, when addressed with honesty and with transparency, is rarely a death blow. However, when people consistently choose to cover their mistakes with lies, aggression, and swift responses, the results can be catastrophic.
I’ve been reflecting on this a lot lately, as yet another example of this folly recently crossed my path. Witnessing another business owner make matters worse for themselves without prompting or reason is painful.
While others may enjoy the schadenfreude, I take no such pleasure. Even in contentious situations, it breaks my heart to watch anyone suffer needlessly because of their own lack of awareness.
The good news is that this experience can serve as a lesson for others.
Whether in business or in life, you always want to operate from a position of strength. That strength doesn’t come from bullying, lying, or playing hardball. Instead, it comes from truth, humility, and patience. In the hands of a capable leader, these virtues can be powerful weapons.
Live in the truth
Truth is a funny thing. We often think of it as a reflection of our best selves, embracing it only when we are right and someone else is wrong. Truth, however, is not the same as virtue. Truth doesn’t discriminate between our virtues and vices. Truth simply is.
When you live in the truth, you’re just as open about your mistakes as you are about your victories. Admitting to and embracing your mistakes is hard. We all do things that we’re not proud of, but covering them up is like ignoring a festering wound. You may be able to survive for a while, but eventually it will catch up with you.
Lying about a mistake is the cardinal sin of leadership. It always makes things worse and sends you down a dangerous path where new lies must be concocted to support old lies. That sort of spiral can be draining, both physically and mentally.
Instead, good leaders must live in the truth. They must breathe it in and make it part of their very being. That means admitting when they’re wrong, accepting the consequences when exposed, and standing tall when they’re in the right.
Lies are just another form of bondage, rendering you a slave to the false reality you’ve created. The truth provides a freedom and a confidence that leads to nothing other than strength. Any scenario or conflict becomes much easier to manage when you’ve been honest with yourself and those around you.
You may ask yourself, “Why on earth would any reasonable person do things that they know have a good chance of harming them?” Well, it all comes down to pride.
I’ve found that some people are fundamentally incapable of exhibiting humility. Nothing is ever their fault, and they’re never in the wrong. They fight because, in their mind, they’re always right. People line up to oppose them because of this false and harmful mindset, and their lives are an unending chain of conflict.
Humility, however, robs others of their ability to attack you. After all, how could someone make a show of pointing out your flaws and mistakes when you’ve already beaten them to the punch?
Humble leaders are surrounded by people who want to help them up when they fall. Prideful leaders, on the other hand, have a line of people ready to kick them when they’re down. Humility is more than just a virtue; it’s a strategic advantage in both life and business.
In business, most self-inflicted wounds can be easily avoided if one simply waits. In the heat of the moment, tempers flare, hackles are raised, and the temptation to act can be strong. However, going off half-cocked rarely pays off. In fact, such rash action serves only to worsen your situation.
People with hair-trigger tempers are often the weakest, most insecure people you’ll ever encounter. They mistake anger and rapid action for strength and competence. Ultimately, the lengths they go to in order to demonstrate their “strength” only serve to highlight their inherent weakness
Standing in stark contrast to this behavior is the sentiment behind one of my favorite quotes of all time. Attributed to the poet John Dryden, it warns “Beware the fury of the patient man.”
I like it because it reminds me that patient, deliberate, and well-thought-out action usually wins the day. People may think that bullying or flying off the handle will propel them ahead, but at the end of the day, it is the patient man who comes out on top because they have the benefit of time, reflection, and preparation.
Strive for wisdom
Taken alone, truth, humility, and patience are powerful virtues. Demonstrated together, however, they form something more significant: wisdom.
Wisdom is something we don’t talk much about these days, but it’s more important than ever in today’s high-strung environment. Wisdom provides you with the ability to navigate life’s challenges without making unforced errors.
Deceit, pride, and impatience represent a powerful temptation, but leaders must remember that these shortcuts always lead to ruin. It may take months or even years, but they will eventually catch up to you.
So, instead of taking the easy way out, embrace the virtues, live in the truth, and demonstrate strategic patience. If you do, you’ll develop the most formidable weapon of all: wisdom.