You Can’t Handle The Truth

December 12, 2009

In A Few Good Men, Col. Jessep (played by Jack Nickleson) and Lt. Daniel Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise) square off. Lt. Kaffee shouts, “I want the truth!” Col. Jessep responds, “You Can’t Handle The Truth!” and then proceeds to tell his truth…

Col. Jessep: “Son, we live in a world that has walls and those walls need to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and curse the Marines; you have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives and that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use them as the backbone of a life trying to defend something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said “thank you,” and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest that you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”

Col. Jessep reveals a truth that is his alone and not necessarily shared by any of those he reports up to or by those who report to him. Just because he believes it, does not make it true.

As a leader, it’s important to realize that your truth is not always in line with your team members’. Get your truth and your team members’ truths out on the table. The more you share your truth and encourage others to share theirs, the less likely you’ll have diatribes like Col. Jessep’s, which come from bottling up truth and feelings for too long.

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