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The Challenge of ‘Truth to Power’ for Leaders

While travelling around Australia working with senior and development leaders in a corporate development program, I have been asking the following question:

“How easy is it for employees to deliver potentially unpleasant messages to more senior people in organisations?”

Their reply has been effectively unanimous.

“It’s very difficult!”

“Why?” I have asked.

Reasons have varied but have included:

  • Fear of negative consequences to themselves should the message not be accepted
  • Fear of being perceived as a ‘negative person’ by senior managers which could negatively affect career opportunities
  • Past experiences within the same or previous companies where such messengers were treated poorly
  • Fear of being required to provide a solution for the issue

The core message is that people are reluctant to provide potentially negative messages to more senior managers.

I have then asked,”So let’s flip this issue around. From the perspective of your roles as leaders, do you see this reluctance to provide messages to senior managers as an issue for you?”

Once again I have received a unanimous response.


“Okay. What can you do about this challenge?”

The conversations have been remarkable. Participants have recognised the real and genuine challenge for many employees to provide potentially ‘negative’ feedback to senior staff.

The issue, known as ‘Truth to Power’ relies on senior staff to be aware of how their reaction to ‘negative’ messages can have an exponential affect on whether or not employees continue to provide them. This requires the senior managers to have an acute awareness of this challenge and to to err on the side of being more supportive of people bringing forward messages rather than less supportive (or worse being defensive).

Interestingly the leaders involved in the discussions I have shared above have been honest about the fact that for many of them they naturally have a defensive response to such issues when they are raised, yet recognise the damaging affect being defensive can have on future messages being presented.

The leaders have shared that it is important to acknowledge the issue and even if it is already known, to thank the employee for having the courage to raise the issue. They have also suggested that leaders need to ‘close the loop’ in terms of providing feedback to the employee about what has happened with their issue, particularly if the leaders initial response was to ‘look into it’.

It is totally understandable for people to have concerns regarding providing negative feedback to senior leaders. yet high performing teams and high performing organisations need to manage the Truth to Power challenge if they wish to reach their potential.

What are your experiences of ‘Truth to Power’ in the workplace and how have you managed this challenge from a leadership perspective?

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at

Communication Tip#2 – How are you using technology to engage with Gens Y&Z?

Gary Ryan explains that Gen Y&Z are now making up a considerable part of an organisation’s employee base. Gary provides an example of an organisation that is currently using Facebook in a unique way to engage it’s Gen Y&Z employees.
Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at

What Really Matters! Book Cover Design Feedback

Hi folks!

Many of you are aware that I am currently writing a series of four books. The first, What Really Matters for Young Professionals – How to master 15 practices to accelerate your career! is nearing completion. As such I have some book cover designs that I would like to share with you.

The other three books in the series are:

  1. What Really Matters for Undergraduate Students – How to master 15 practices to accelerate your career
  2. What Really Matters for Postgraduate Students – How to master 15 practices to accelerate your career
  3. What Really Matters for Aspiring Leaders – How to master 15 practices to accelerate your career

My intention is for the “What Really Matters for” part of the title to be consistent, with the specific focus and image on the book cover to vary from book to book. In this way the series will look consistent, with each book maintaining a distinct look about itself.

Please click on this link to view a short video on the book cover designs. (Remember to click your ‘back’ button once you have completed viewing the short video)

1) Note which book cover designs that you like
2) Note if you don’t like any of them!
3) Take the survey to vote on your preferred book cover designs and to provide some additional comments to help to improve them
Click here to take survey
4) If you don’t like any of the designs or you would like to make a general comment, simply post a comment to this article.

I have already had wonderful support from many people who have provided invaluable feedback regarding the content of the book. Once again I appreciate your time and thank you for helping me out.



Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at