Leaders must establish consistent, fair and equitable (NOT equal) guidelines that are well-defined and clearly communicated as the litmus test for decisions they make – regardless of whether “anyone is watching” or not. People are far more likely to see what you do than hear what you say in life – and a reputation is much easier to maintain than it is to regain. Employees (or those seeking work) must identify and present truth over fiction, reality over desires and an honest appraisal of what they can do over what they feel they might be able to do when seeking advancement or fulfillment. Managers must communicate openly and honestly as well or even the best qualified candidate may choose to leave if the “pain of remaining” is a greater motivator to change than the apprehension of starting over is a motivator to stay – particularly within an economy that has more jobs available than qualified candidates to fill them. Far too many of the ethical shortcomings within today’s world have their roots in a lack of open and honest communication – people or business seeing what they can get away with rather than doing what they know is right – as they seek the fulfillment of self-serving values and the rewards of self-elevating accomplishments rather than the sustainability of shared goals and objectives.
People often find themselves in an uncomfortable position if they have communicated a partial truth, remained silent on an important aspect or condition, or failed to tell the “why” when issuing instruction or correction rather than openly and honestly telling the entire and absolute truth. We are a risk averse culture, avoiding situations where the potential of loss is great EVEN IF the possibility of gain is immense, hesitant to create (or even engage in) confrontation. While some say that “silence is golden,” it can far more frequently be “deadly” than blissful. When attempting to build (or retain) integrity, refusing to talk about an issue does not resolve it nor make it go away – it simply allows the underlying “reason” for conflict to grow and establish itself. When individuals mistakenly believe that avoiding an issue will make it go away they are shocked and disappointed when the minor complications they may have been avoiding become un-navigable (and uncharted) waters that tear and destroy everything in their path. It is far easier to talk about minor issues when they arise (building credibility, respect and integrity) than it is to continually ignore situations (eventually turning a “mole hill” into a mountain). Leaders often must sacrifice the “popular” card in favor of one that promotes quiet respect – must walk away from being “one of the gang” to being the one who provides the gang with mission, vision and ongoing support.
There is a fine line between being confident and being cocky – between being considered essential and invaluable in the eyes of others and establishing your own value and importance (then trying to convince others that your personal beliefs and expectations are more valuable than theirs). Far too many good leaders fail to become great because they put themselves before the wishes and needs of those around them – placing more importance upon their individual “good works” than on the accomplishments of those they lead. When individuals in a position of power allow their personal influence to rise to the surface, effectively filtering the light from around and beneath them, others will be stifled rather than celebrated.
Humility is far more frequently the foundation of a great leader than loud or abrasive bluster. Honesty is far easier to maintain than a series of twisted or convoluted lies. While one may find joy in the journey when seeking personal gain and rewards, rarely will long-term, sustainable integrity be found by forcing others to move in a defined manner to a contrived destination that benefits one party to the detriment of another. Too many relationships are damaged because one individual places his or her personal “wants” above those of another. We often fail to realize (or even recognize) that IF we truly and sincerely care for others by helping them accomplish their objectives and meet their needs (NOT accomplishing their goals or meeting their objectives FOR them), others will have the time (and probably the propensity) to support and care for us as well. The part about building (and maintaining) integrity, however, would dictate that we help others without expecting anything in return – accepting any “return on our investment” only as an unanticipated benefit that encourages us to grow.