Considering only the end result, there is little difference between manslaughter and murder. In both cases someone dies. The same is true about mistakes and lies, since in both instances incorrect information is provided. Based on end results, one could conclude, that the difference between mistakes and lies is a distinction without a real difference. There is a difference, a tangible difference, and that all important distinction rests in motivation and intent. Two terms clearly differentiate mistakes from lies. Respectively they are misinformation and disinformation. Based solely on end-results, they are often used synonymously, since both reference erroneous information. But like manslaughter and murder, there is a very real difference driven by motivation and intent.
Misinformation can result from a lack of accurate data, a failure to understand, misinterpretations, miscalculations, and invalid assumptions. When so driven, misinformation is shared unintentionally and absent overtly antagonistic motivations. Disinformation is shared with self-serving and often hostile intent. Specious data, false evidence, and misleading intelligence, are purposefully created and deliberately shared. The motivation is to manipulate, control, confuse, and weaken by subverting the truth.
Appreciating and respecting the difference between misinformation and disinformation is a leadership imperative. Whether as a consumer or a provider, avoiding misinformation, as much as possible, and totally avoiding disinformation is vital. Doing so limits a leader’s personal exposure and thus organizational exposure to bad data, incorrect facts, and faulty evidence. There is no doubt that over time misinformation, mistakes, can exact a toll on trust. Being aware of, taking ownership of, correcting, and setting a proactive stage to prevent future mistakes goes a long way in rebuilding trust. Such trust recovery is considerably more difficult in the face of disinformation. Regaining trust and confidence after being labeled a liar can be impossible.
A leader’s exercise of informational due diligence is one of the most critical factors in building, maintaining, and enhancing trust. The speed, relative ease, and number of social media platforms have significantly expanded the dissemination of both misinformation and disinformation. Nonetheless, the truth always has, currently does, and always will matter.
Mistakes happen, they’re accidental, and people get that. Lies don’t just happen, they’re purposeful, and people generally don’t get that!