Seeing The Facets of Facts Part 2

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Building on last week’s post about Seeing the Facets of Facts, this week I’m digging into the dangers of “Partialized Facts.” When I say “Partialized Facts” I refer to treating one perspective on an issue (that is only part of the picture) as the whole truth. I have seen it happen so many times and it’s time to call it what it is – unethical.

“Being honest is not simply telling the truth and avoiding deceitful behaviors; it requires leaders to be as open as possible and to describe reality fully, accurately, and in sufficient detail.”

Principles of Management, 5.4 Ethics at the Organizational Level, Rice University,

Presenting part of the truth as the whole picture is often done for self-serving reasons, to:

  • Incite emotion, and
  • Move people to take unethical or illegal actions, and
  • Foster loyalty to an untruth (we all believe this, we’re united around it)

Let’s talk about lying for a moment. There’s the “little white lie” to avoid hurting someone’s feelings (which could be considered an ethical purpose). There’s the boldfaced lie, when something is shared as the truth when it has been proven to be untrue. There’s the lie of omission, which is where we are omitting important information that would change the picture people have of a situation or person. Partialized facts are lies of omission.

Sharing part of the truth as the whole truth is deceptive, irresponsible, dishonest, disingenuous, and untrustworthy. It is an unethical act that has no place in responsible leadership. That is abundantly clear when someone intentionally omits part of the picture, but you might be wondering, “What if someone is unaware of the rest of the truth?” I believe that the opportunity and responsibility of leadership includes taking the time to understand issues, and to consider the ethical repercussions of our actions before we speak. In other words, staying morally aware is part of the job.

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership 

© 2022 Leading in Context LLC

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