Creative LeadershipEngaging Culture

Why Sometimes, We Need to Be Careful of Sincere People

It takes more than sincerity to change the world...

How many times have you bought into ideas and plans because of a person’s sincerity?  I’ve often felt that because they believed in the idea so sincerely, it had to be the right thing to do – but over and over, I’ve been wrong. It took me a long time to learn that sincerity is a good thing – but it actually means very little when it comes to the validity or truth about good ideas.

Over the centuries, lots of people have been very sincere about very bad ideas. The most sincere people almost always seem to start cults and heresies. Anarchists are sincere. Terrorists are sincere. And as a result, millions of lives have been destroyed by sincere people. Of course, I want people to be honest, forthright, and authentic about what they believe. But before you take a risk with a new idea, make sure you’re buying into more than just sincerity.

Because the most sincere people can be sincerely wrong.

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    Great reminder, Phil.  

    Questions: Are you honest, forthright, and authentic right back to sincerely wrong people about their bad ideas?  Or do you let them go?  Or does it depend?  And if it depends, on what does it depend?

  2. THAT is a great question, and I’d love to know what other people think.  I’ve discovered that challenging sincere (but wrong) people is a tough job.  I think speaking the truth in love comes into play here, but I have to admit, sometimes it’s just too much trouble and I walk away….   🙂 

  3. This is THE question I think. Often sincere people believe so strongly, that they are personally offended if you point out a different viewpoint. I’m thinking of an organizational situation. If the sincere ones are leaders, how can we express a differing viewpoint without appearing to challenge them or without offending them? We must be courageous enough to be truthful or we are in some ways responsible for the bad outcome. Yet, oftentimes people are afraid to say what’s what and the problem perpetuates itself. 

  4. Good conversation.  It’s extremely difficult at times so when I’m in the situation described above, especially when dealing with those in a management or leadership position, I look for the best timing and method to present my case.  Oftentimes I try to develop an analogy or comparative example to show the other viewpoint; tone is respectful without being apologetic and I often preface whatever I’m going to say with something to the effect that one of my reasons for being in the position I’m in is to give honest and transparent input.  I’m not usually encumbered by the political or business considerations they’re factoring into their position so it’s easier to bring a different viewpoint.  Usually it’s worked well.  I’ve found that thoughtful leaders, even those who cling sincerely to their personal beliefs and values, are ultlimately if not immediately, appreciative of constructive ‘devil’s advocate’ discussions.  It helps to have a good track record and credibility – a mix of wisdom and experience brings more weight to your counter-argument.  Then, no matter what the outcome to the organization, I have a clear conscience that I’ve provided decison-makers with options and the pros and cons of a given situation.

  5. What do you mean in Branding Faith p. 122 when you say say Christian broadcasters seem earnest but not sincere?

    Do young people today want authenticity, or do they just ASSUME there is no such thing and thus value snarkiness (meaning cynical, flip and cutely rude).

    Notice the Ray-Ban commercial campaign: “don’t hide” ; it promotes authenticity, as if it is asking people to buy into a moral good, but really they are simply promoting their longstanding brand of sunglasses. Is this really authentic? 

    Apparently everybody likes the new Old Spice commercials. Is this authentic? It seems hopelessly cynical and deeply embedded in a sinful perspective. 

    So what does this say about branding/positioning religious broadcasting? How is it possible to connect over such a divide?

    1. There’s a say in Hollywood that “Sincerity is everything. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”   In Branding Faith I mean that many Christian broadcasters try hard and “mean well” but they’re simply over the top.  People feel that when they watch.  They know when they’re not real.  I’m getting a little tired of the word “authentic” – but it does have a place.  This generation can spot “fake” a mile away…

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