Updated: Feb 4, 2018
I'm amazed these days how many people are afraid of speaking the truth because they are fearful of repercussions. I was in a meeting yesterday with a group of professionals (I'll protect their names and professions because, well, they are fearful), and the conversation turned quite candid, so I offered my two cents. Everyone in the room agreed with the points I made. I offered my points with a fair amount of assertiveness and candor, but I was tempered, respectful, and balanced. I was surprised, therefore, when a couple people came up to me afterward and said, "Be careful not to say those things in the presence of the wrong people." Who are the wrong people? I assumed they meant the leadership of the larger organization in question, so I balked. I went on to explain to these gentlemen that I have always been a person to speak his mind--to say what needs to be said. In fact, I told them, I recently left an organization that was not too fond of my straightforwardness. I explained to them that I am not afraid of the truth, unlike so many today.
You see, my mom (who is a great woman, by the way) taught me not to be what she called a "scaredy cat." She taught through word and deed that to run from your problems and to hide in the corners of life is to exist as a timid animal--to live under the oppression of others. She taught me that respectful discourse and truth-telling are--though sometimes offensive to others--the most honest ways to live. People may not like to hear the truth, she taught, but very often they need to hear it. I can remember my mother, who was a leader in her profession for my entire childhood, coming home in the evenings and telling me about her leadership challenges, how she handled them, and, often, who was mad at her because of it. And then she'd say something like, "But I don't care if so-and-so is mad. I did the right thing." And she believed that!
I have come to learn over the years that my mom was a true leader. In her profession, she could have easily been a pushover, a manager, or a yes-person. But she chose to be a leader. By doing so, she garnered some enemies. There were people who
didn't like her, and I'm sure she was not chosen for some other leadership positions over the years because of her candor. I think she even left as the director of an organization one time because of her truth-telling. So, I'm sure she was accused on more than one occasion of being too assertive or obstinate, maybe too forward. But, you know, I never heard anyone call her a "scaredy cat."