Only Enemies and True Leaders Speak the Truth

Two excuses can keep you from giving clear, unambiguous feedback: the fear of falling out of favor of your boss, and the desire to be liked by your peers or reports.

There is a great example of the desire to be liked in the conversation between Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive1, quoted by Ian Parker in his excellent article for The New Yorker titled The Shape of Things to Come:

Jobs’s taste for merciless criticism was notorious; Ive recalled that, years ago, after seeing colleagues crushed, he protested. Jobs replied, “Why would you be vague?,” arguing that ambiguity was a form of selfishness: “You don’t care about how they feel! You’re being vain, you want them to like you.” Ive was furious, but came to agree. “It’s really demeaning to think that, in this deep desire to be liked, you’ve compromised giving clear, unambiguous feedback,” he said.

Author Stephen King puts it bluntly: only enemies speak the truth2. Maybe we should said instead: only enemies and true leaders speak the truth. When was the last time you gave honest feedback?


  1. Jonathan Ive is the genius behind Apple’s beautiful and revolutionary designed products, ranging from the iPod to Apple Watch. He was very close to Steve Jobs and his personal friend. According to Parker, Ive is also one of the two most powerful people in the world’s most valuable company. 
  2. cfr


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