The Truth Can Lead


“Leadership can be an unpopular business. The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.” — Tony Blair (former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom).

A Few Good Men, the 1992 movie starring Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson, was nominated for four Academy Awards. The film revolves around the trial of two U.S. Marines charged with the murder of a fellow Marine and the tribulations of their lawyer as he prepares a case to defend his clients. More importantly to my article, the often-quoted lines between Tom Cruise (Kaffee), the lawyer, and Jack Nicholson (Jessep), the Colonel, was voted the twenty-ninth greatest American movie quote of all time. The conversation goes as follows in the courtroom:

Jessep: You want answers?

Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to them.

Jessep: You want answers?

Kaffee: I want the truth!

Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!

The voters in the state of Michigan wanted the truth, so they elected a new Governor whom they believed would provide answers to their long overdue questions to help get the state out of the challenges it has endured for far too long. So, the Governor of Michigan recently presented a budget to the House and Senate committee revealing the data…the truth. What followed was an enormous outpouring, on both sides, of resistance, denial, and anger. That is when the movie quote jumped into my head: “You Can’t Handle the Truth.”  Furthermore, this quote can be applied to any leadership situation whether Government, Business, or an individual household. As Darren Hardy states, SUCCESS Publisher and Editorial Director, “We call someone a leader when he or she is willing to do what others are not, even when — and maybe most especially when — the right thing to do might not be what’s popular.”

To verify the Governors findings, I read the figures in the 2011 Citizen’s Guide to Michigan’s Financial Health titled, “Dollars and Sense: How State and Local Governments in Michigan Spend Your Money.” What I found interesting in the report was how it mirrored the challenges that not only government faces (or maybe finally has decided to face) but business owners and individual households have come to the realization over the last few years…you can’t spend what you don’t have. Here is a few finding from the above report:

Michigan now ranks 37th in per capita income among all 50 states — and our families are among the poorest in the nation.

Personal Income grew by only 7 percent between 1995 and 2009, compared with the U.S growth of 35 percent during the same period.

Since 2001, Michigan has spent more than it has taken in 6 out of the last 10 years.

Said another way, if the running of your finances is built on the income you once had and that income has been reduced dramatically from either less tax revenue, less sales of your product/service, or a lost job/reduced pay — the leader needs to make the unpopular decision. Your expenses/lifestyle will need to be adjusted to fit your newly recognized (lower) income stream, which can be accomplished by one of two ways; 1) a proactive, shared effort by all involved voluntarily or, 2) let’s just say the “non-voluntary” way.

Whichever route is taken, the leader needs to make a decision that usually affects the lifestyle of the people — in the short term — that make up that organization, company, or household. However unpopular it may be, remember this final saying “the truth shall set you free”…at least maybe debt free.

This article was written by Lou Melone, Managing Partner, with Budd, Melone & Company in Auburn Hills, MI.  Lou Melone can be reached at 248.499.8704.

Posted date on Article X, Issue II

Dated 3.2011

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