“Above all, tell the truth.”Stephen Grover Cleveland
Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th President of the United States. Cleveland is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms. Cleveland took strong positions and was heavily criticized. Even so, his reputation for honesty and good character survived the troubles of his second term.
President Cleveland had to make several difficult choices as president. He was even accused of many things that were not necessarily his fault. But he learned one important thing in life which was to always tell the truth. This did not always prove to be the popular choice. Many times he was greatly ridiculed and the newspapers would make up the most horrendous cartoons about him.
That being said, there is a reason for using this quote. The decisions you make as a leader will not always be the popular decision. It may not even be the right decision according to the world. There is one thing that always will hold true in the end, you told the truth. There is a popular phrase that people say when it comes to having a good conscience, “at least I will sleep well tonight.”
I have had several times in my life where telling the truth was probably the worst thing I could do. I still did it. The ramifications were not the most desirable. But I did sleep well knowing that I was forth right and I believe I gained a little respect in the end.
I would say that having a good conscience is probably one of the most desired qualities that leaders want in their lives. I don’t know that every good leader is perfect, however I think every good leader aspires to telling the truth even though the situation may not call for it. President Cleveland shares a story when he found out that he had something cancerous in his mouth. He did not want anyone to know so he secretly had surgery to get the cancer out of this mouth and told the public something different. Now, is that cause to be alarmed? Probably not, but telling the truth may or may not have hurt him.
That leads me to another reason for telling the truth. We are very good at what I call the “little white lie.” I know I have had my fair share of these. What I have noticed in my life is once you get good at the little white lie then is gets easier to tell the big white lie and that ends with pretty significant repercussions. I think having a good conscience is not always the easiest thing to do, but that is why this is such an important characteristic of being a great leader.