Truths and Vanities – By Bernt

Truths and Vanities - By Bernt

Table of Contents

Because the Vanity can lead the leader to a process of myopia in relation to their self-image and behaviors? What truths are behind this situation? The biggest self-deception of organizational leaders is to believe that people don't see and know them for what they really are.

Vanity: “is the exaggerated care of appearance, for the pleasure or with the aim of attracting the admiration or praise of others. It is the need to boast, to flaunt, to show off.” – Available at “”

Beautiful speeches and good rhetoric without being accompanied by daily actions and behaviors that demonstrate and evidence them in practice, at the end of the day, they are just beautiful speeches and rhetoric.

The maxim that when there is no coherence between a leader's speech and practice has always been very true, what will remain for team members will be what they see and feel in relation to their leadership.

if this is a Truth absolute, why do many professionals (almost childishly) refuse to accept and work with the perverse impacts of continuing in an empty discourse with low adherence to the reality of their behavior? Furthermore, what could these professionals do to break this cycle of myopia and self-deception?

Carolyn Taylor, in her book walking the talk, reinforces the importance of changing the mental model for this to occur:

“Putting in your speech requires you to change your behavior at any time, not just when you think you're in the spotlight. The only way to do that is to change your mental model. If you don't change at the SE level, you may be able to adopt some new behaviors on special occasions, but the mental model you still carry will show up when you're not focused, and others will notice a lack of consistency.”

Taylor, p. 151

put the Truth in front of Vanity

Based on observations of organizational daily life and personal experience, I believe that the development of the ability to work with truths and the creation of systems and mechanisms that provide the conditions for this to occur can make all the difference.

Truth: “That which is intimately connected with everything that is sincere, that is true, is the absence of lying.” – Available at “”

One of the main reasons for organizational conflicts is also the leader's lack of ability to accept that his Truth It's not the same as other people. The main conflicts are triggered when one leadership tries to impose its Truth about a certain situation.

Thus, each leader can (and should) also revisit their truths. The key issue for this to occur is called “vulnerability”, that is, the ability to let go of your Vanity, as a rule, arising from their organizational position and/or existing power relations. Always be open to listening, understanding and accepting other truths it is fundamental.

There is nothing to change if each leadership does not understand and accept, first of all, that it is always necessary to change!

A suggestion in this regard is to establish and connect to a network of “true” friends, a network of “good”. The members of your network would be co-responsible for flagging other truths, which you would not be able to see and/or hear at the height of your vanities. Only they would know how to carry out an assertive and effective approach to the leader.

Create your network of “wise fools”

Leaders (in any organization) need people who are willing to speak openly and boldly about how things are. For this reason, never dismiss the things you hear or feel, even if they make you uncomfortable. Nor, fail to pay attention to the people who can do this.

In the book “Reflections on Character and Leadership”, psychoanalyst and Insead professor Manfred Kets de Vries describes some of the “characters” that exist in the organizational world. Among them, Kets de Vries cites the figure of the “wise fool”:

“The fool I am referring to is the millennial figure who acts as a foil for the leader – and all leaders need him. In all ages, jesters have played a traditional role, providing stability to the perspective of kings, emperors, and other rulers. There is, for example, the wise fool in Shakespeare's King Lear, who plays the role of guardian of reality for Lear and the spectators. The fool often reveals his reflections to the leader, reminding the leader that power is transitory.”

Kets de Vries, p. 30


At court, the jester was the only one able to tell the king about the truths of his reign, even in the midst of the sea of vanities of this. Still, that didn't give him the right to say what he wanted and when he wanted. His wisdom was precisely in knowing how and when to do it.

In this way, leadership would not be dependent only on formal performance feedback processes. These processes help and are important, but they are not enough. Many organizations even begin to escape this formality in search of something more dynamic.

If a leader wants honest feedback, he should ask himself if he has created a network/organization that has room for wise fools.

Finally, the organizational world more than ever demands that the impact of each leader's actions be evaluated almost immediately. The creation of mechanisms for verifying and questioning the truths absolutes will prevent the leader from remaining bewitched and paralyzed by his vanities.

Here's a suggestion: Who knows, you can start by identifying who were the people who have already allowed themselves and managed to “pierce” the resistance of your family. Vanity. Perhaps there are the first members of your new feedback network. Think about it!

True wishes for success in this quest!

Daniel Ely is a Human Resources executive, Business Administrator from UFRGS and Master in Organizational Strategies from UNISINOS. Specialist in Management/Leadership from Kellogg University in the USA, postgraduate in Finance, Controllership and Auditing from FGV and Business Management from Fundação Dom Cabral. He is a professor and speaker on Career, Leadership, HR, Organizational Development and Strategy, and author of the blog Reflections and Connections (


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