One of the great things about vacation is getting to meet people who you’d never have met anywhere else. You get to hear stories you wouldn’t hear anywhere else, too.

Last week while on vacation, I met a fellow who was taking some time off after having lost his job. He had been working for a small company in a small town. The company closed. He had an inkling that something was up. But instead of hearing the news from his boss, he found out about it one morning when he opened the local newspaper.

With “leadership” like that, is it any wonder the company didn’t make it?

You can read a lot about leadership. Go into any book store and you’ll find shelves full of advice. But probably, the real test of leadership happens when you have to give bad news to the people who are working for you. It’s one of the hardest and scariest things any leader has to do. It’s also one of the most important. If your employees have to read it in the newspaper, or find out about it through the grapevine, you’re sunk.

Corollary: If you do this right, your employees won’t need a rumor mill.