Leaders are those who can be trusted. Sounds obvious but there are far too many examples of leaders in business and politics who fabricate, deceive, omit, obfuscate, or otherwise stretch fact into fiction.
As someone who thoroughly appreciates fiction in the form of novels, short stories, movies and so many streaming series, I know that verisimilitude is essential. Verisimilitude basically means “similarity to the truth,” and writers and filmmakers use a form of verisimilitude to give stories the appearance of truth to keep the reader or viewer engaged.
That’s because verisimilitude is necessary to suspend our belief and follow a character in his or her world. It is vital for the story to appear believable. Cultural verisimilitude shows up in the context of reality in the real world. For example, novels can accurately describe the real world—regardless of historical time and place.
Writers and filmmakers can make us laugh, cry, smile, or frown because of verisimilitude. We willingly except this because we want to be entertained.
When the appearance of truth is used to deceive, confuse, and otherwise manipulate us to act or vote in a particular way, it can be highly destructive. Whether it’s former President Donald Trump claiming “fake news” regarding any number of the many transgressions and lies he’s committed throughout his life or Howard Schultz, the ex-CEO of Starbucks, claiming falsely that the company has never once broken labor laws during its anti-union campaign, they are seeking to deceive us.
While public relations officers, media consultants, cable news pundits, social media commenters, and other spin doctors seek to further the deception, it’s up to each of us to seek out the truth—no matter how difficult it can be.
I consider myself a very trusting person in that I go into most situations where I trust what I’m reading, seeing, or hearing. However, when I learn that a person, organization, or entity is guilty of deception, they lose credibility for me and need to regain my trust before I’ll take them at their word again.
According to the EY Global Integrity Report 2022, there is a widening gap between higher levels of integrity awareness and lowering standards, as well as between the confidence in integrity standards displayed by companies’ leadership ranks and their employees. Yet 97% of respondents say they agree that integrity is important.
Why do we say integrity is important, yet we allow ourselves to be manipulated by people who are clearly not being honest?
Social media no doubt contributes greatly to a lack of trust. (I removed myself from both Facebook and Twitter long ago for this reason as well as others.) Social media certainly didn’t succeed in creating community and perhaps is only contributing to a nationwide loneliness epidemic. If someone you know is primarily getting their news from social media, there’s a good reason to be dubious in what they then tell you to be true.
If we are truly a nation of laws where someone is innocent until proven guilty, then we must also demand justice when someone is found guilty by a jury of his or her peers. Verisimilitude should be used for entertainment, but not for leading organizations or people. We should demand that our leaders are trustworthy. And we should hold them accountable for their actions and we should no longer support them when they lie to us. Perhaps most importantly, we should demand justice when they commit a crime