Seven Proven Strategies for Dealing with Liars

Leaders lie because they don’t care enough to tell the truth. It’s too much trouble convincing know-it-alls, for example, so they smile and let them believe they’re right. They say, “That sounds fine.” But they’re shading the truth.


Image source by George Hodan

Leaders lie to:

  1. Build image.
  2. Save face.
  3. Prevent turmoil.
  4. Solve conflict.
  5. Distract or misdirect.
  6. Manipulate others.
  7. Protect information.
  8. Put others down.
  9. Elevate stocks.
  10. Deceive themselves.

Bonus: Lying leaders pretend they know when they don’t. (One of the dumbest lies.)

Three truths about liars:

  1. Leaders believe lying is wrong but do it anyway.
  2. Lying is always about some form of advantage.
  3. Liars place their interests ahead of yours.

Bosses promise raises but don’t intend to deliver. Employees say they’ve done it when they haven’t. (See: The first lie I told at work.)

Seven strategies for dealing with liars:

  1. Act quickly. Time is the liar’s friend.
  2. Develop skepticism. Always begin with empathy, but, tender hearts are vulnerable to lies.
  3. Be interested. Expose liars by asking questions like: How do you know? Who did you speak with? When did that happen? Who was there? What happened next?
  4. Include others. Don’t talk to liars alone, have witnesses.
  5. Validate by communicating with email.
  6. Protect yourself. Don’t lie but don’t tell everything, either. Vulnerability is stupid when dealing with liars.
  7. Confront liars you love. I know, we’re supposed to love everyone. Don’t lie to yourself, you don’t.


Cultivate transparency – speak publicly – avoid unnecessary secrets. When it comes to accountability, go public with, who does what by when.

How can leaders deal with liars?