Leadership is not about stating the facts. Leadership is responsible for shaping the conversation around facts.

Facts are not beliefs. Facts are merely objective data points that reflect reality. It is a common misconception that people in positions of power have a responsibility to report the facts. In reality, everyone has a responsibility to report the facts, and submit to them, regardless of your “title” or “position.” That’s just the nature of facts.

Leadership, then, is the responsibility, not to state the facts to their constituents — as if people are just waiting for their leaders to give them data — but to shape the culture of conversations that people have around those facts. People in power, be they political, business, or even familial, easily fall into the trap of believing that their primary (if not sole) responsibility is to berate their constituents with data. Then, tell them what to do with the data. This is more about power than about leadership. Some leaders are incompetent and insecure, so they pivot, or worse, defend their “facts,” even when inconsistencies or inaccuracies are pointed out to them.

Leadership, good leadership, submits to the facts. Good leadership promotes common understanding of facts. Good leadership does not merely dismiss or explain away other meaning sets. Good leadership acknowledges and honors those meaning sets, and then considers and implements them into a better understanding of the truth. This “empathetic epistemology” shapes the conversations and culture of an organization towards productive dialogue.

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