Management and Leadership in Nonprofits


Seeing Is Believing

Mar 21, 2019

Seeing is Believing - Nonprofits Blog Wipfli

There we were, 9,000 feet up on Haleakala (Maui), waiting for the sunset, when the most amazing thing jumped through the clouds! Wow! You can see how amazed we are in the picture. I posted this on Facebook, thinking I'd get some good chuckles, and I did. But I also got some "that's amazing!" comments. I have to admit, I didn't know what to do with the "amazing" comments. After all, I believe it's highly unlikely for a whale to leap 9,000 feet out of the water through the clouds. Yet I said it did.

Then I had to think a little more about how people process an event like this. I'm sure there were those who just clicked through and ignored or hit “like” without really looking. And then there were those who invested in a comment. But did they really process the picture, or were they just putting a comment out as quickly as they might hit “like”? In short, what were they thinking?

And then of course, there was my role in all this. I posted a clearly false picture and encouraged people to believe it's true. Even if my intent wasn't bad, was the outcome wrong, in that some people were fooled?

As leaders, we put a lot in front of people all the time. Some of it is true. Some is fake. Either way, we're simply trying to drive an outcome. In this case, the desired outcome was a chuckle. However, there were some undesired outcomes, in that people were fooled in to believing a falsehood.

When we leaders put things out there for people to consider, I believe we should always be willing to take on both the intended and the unintended consequences. Even if it's real, that doesn't mean we'll get the outcome we desire. And when it's fake, we may set ourselves up for even worse consequences.

George Constanza once said, "… just remember. It's not a lie if you believe it's true." Leaders state a lot with great conviction and great belief in the truthfulness of their statements. Instead, maybe we should spend more time challenging those we lead to call us out when their belief is something different. Leaders need to be challenged. It's how we all get better. The alternative is having a group we lead simply believing a whale can jump 9,000 feet through the clouds.

More of Steve Lipton’s blogs are available online.

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