Speaking Truth To Power


“One of the most important things is to have empathy for the people we work for…”

  • Simon Sinek (b. 1973) on the subject of Speaking Truth to Power

I’ve always been willing to speak truth to power, and occasionally without the empathy or compassion that Sinek calls for here. It’s cost me, big time. It’s the reason some of my closest friends love me and the reason that some of my greatest detractors don’t. To that second group, I’m sorry. I wish I’d have been more empathetic.

So, with that said…

We live in a time where it seems like more and more of the Emperors are all nakedy up on the back of their horsies. Yet, before we go all Roseanne Roseannadanna on them (“HEY! You trying to make me sick here?!), it will probably serve us well to consider their stories. Their motivation. Their goals. Their dreams. Their realities. Their fears.

As our economy ebbs, and as the world we’ve known has less and less in common with the world we’ve known — it’s easy to presume that layoffs, price increases, supply chain glitches, disagreements and decisions are simply cases of leadership losing touch with the “little people.”

But here’s the deal. We’re all little people in the big picture. Where can we find common ground?

We see it in politics, and while I hope it’s a passing trend, it alarms me that so few appear to stand for something, perhaps because they’re too wrapped up in being against something. We see it in sports. I sat with 69,000 of my closest friends Saturday and listened to too many of them scream horrible, hurtful things at the storied coach of our favorite team and his 22-year-old quarterback. Things they wouldn’t say to a sworn enemy. Things they certainly wouldn’t say if that coach or quarterback was sitting at the table with them.

We see it in our workplaces, and in our homes, sometimes without realizing the toll the past few years may have taken on our clients, our co-workers, our kids, and our spouses. We’d love to speak our truth to power — or anyone else who will hear it — but are we willing to hear their truth, to understand their “why?”

It’s not ironic that Simon Sinek’s best-selling book is “Start With Why.” And it’s not ironic that he leads off today’s post. Because when we focus on someone else’s “why,” we earn our way into their trust, and then, when we help them connect to their why, we earn our way into their hearts — and trusted and loved are two good neighborhoods for us to seek residence in.

It’s extremely important that truth gets spoken to those in power. It’s just as important for empathy to be part of the message.


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