Abraham Lincoln referred to our tendency to continually have faith in people that we know are corrupt as “the better angels of our nature”. Most of us want to believe that untruths and deceptions perpetrated by our leaders are anomalies. But, as we have seen in previous posts, with toxic leaders it is more likely an intentional behavior. And …… it will be repeated. Psychologist Ronald E. Riggio referred to it this way:
“Research clearly shows above all that most followers value integrity and honesty in their leaders. Leaders who are caught lying, particularly if they refuse to own up to the lie and ask for forgiveness, will lose the trust of their followers. And often, odds are if your boss lies to you once, it is probably not the first or last lie.“1
We have also previously discussed one of the primary reasons that toxic leaders employ this behavior. It’s because they believe they need to accomplish their objective(s) at all costs, and that any method they use to get there is justified. The events in my book, The Intrepid Brotherhood, are the perfect example of an accumulation of lies used to justify continuing an almost hopeless situation. John Mariotti characterized it this way:
“Why would a leader lie, when they understand the negative consequences of being caught in that lie? Usually it is to advance an agenda, or support a decision that cannot stand up to scrutiny based on the truth.”2
Something else we have discussed previously is the phenomenon of others in the organization subscribing to, and supporting, the lie. It is uncanny. And, when it happens, the damage can be difficult to reverse. Dana Brownlee makes this observation about this culture of lying:
“Lying encourages others to lie. Creating a culture of deception can be extremely dangerous. Leaders who habitually lie run the risk of normalizing that behavior and unwittingly creating a culture of deception that just might boomerang back on them when they least suspect it. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that leaders who regularly lie often find others around them beginning to lie as well. Some are more likely to lie or distort information because they feel it’s been somewhat normalized while others may feel pressure to perpetuate the leader’s lies in order to further the leader’s goals.“3
1Ronald E. Riggio Ph.D., “5 Signs Your Boss Is A Toxic Leader”, Psychology Today, April 2023.
2John Mariotti, “When Leaders Lie – Bad Things Happen”, Forbes Magazine, April 2012.
3Dana Brownlee, “Leadership 101 – Lying Isn’t Leading”, Forbes Magazine, October 2020