We see it every day--leaders who mislead their people. The deceit can come from a variety of motivations. Some good, some not so good. For instance, sometimes a leader exaggerates a work situation because they want to motivate their team. Sometimes a leader leaves out the bad news in an attempt to maintain morale. But, sometimes, they deceive out of greed or a misplaced aversion to conflict.
Regardless of the impetus, bad things happen when a leader misleads their staff. These bad things manifest itself through staff behavior in a variety of ways, including:
They Start to "Spin": Staff members model the behavior of their leader. When they see that you "spin" the facts by leaving certain details out or misrepresenting the particulars of a situation, they recognize that they can use the same techniques to manage you.
They Shift Focus to the Inside: The more that your team recognizes inconsistencies between what you say and what they experience, the more they begin to doubt everything that you say. When this happens, they will shift their focus away from the work (i.e., delivering great service and products to your customers) and towards the internal political environment. They feel compelled to focus on the inside for fear that, if they don't pay attention, they could get burned by their leader.
They Don't Do Their Best: Because the focus has shifted from the outside to the inside, the quality of work diminishes. They can't do their best if they're confused, in doubt or otherwise always looking over their shoulder.
They Play Games: At a certain point, deceitful practices can become so rampant within a group that misrepresentation becomes the norm. Once this occurs, gamesmanship develops into a standard practice and all control is lost.
They Don't Share: Once the games begin, it becomes every man for himself. Your team loses cohesion and each member becomes selfish, glory hounds out to prove that they're performance deserves a bigger piece of the pie than their contemporaries. Any sense of "being in it together" is gone for good.
They Lose Faith in Management: Ultimately, you've lost the team because you've lost their trust. But, interestingly, that's not all that happened through your misleading behavior. Personnel will transfer their mistrust to the rest of the management team within the organization. All bets are off for the business, once this occurs.
To close, don't mislead your people. It creates a culture of deception and promotes misconduct that can take years to undo. Instead, deal in facts, state the truth and develop your people so that they have the skills and intestinal fortitude to accept and handle the realities of any situation that your organization may confront.