While attending a networking event in Dallas, I had the pleasure of exchanging dialogue with many interesting individuals. In one particular conversation, a young man, after discovering that I am a leadership coach and consultant, asked a rather insightful question: “What do you think is the most important quality in a leader?” I told him that the studies of Kouzes and Posner assert that honesty is the single most important ingredient in the leader-follower relationship. To be fully confident in a leader, and be willing to commit one’s resources and life to following them, one needs to believe in the character and integrity of the leader. All things considered, Kouzes and Posner assert that credibility is the foundation of leadership.
In his book, There’s No Such Thing as Business Ethics, John Maxwell asserts that a person can, and should, live by only one standard of ethics. It kind of goes along with the “weakest link in the chain” idea. If a person is honest in church, but shady in business, then that person’s level of integrity is of the shady business sort. Maxwell’s premise for the book is the “Golden Rule” – to treat others as you would want to be treated. I want others to be honest with me.
Aside from the intentional lies and deception that erode a leader’s influence, there are times when a leader can unintentionally say or do something that will have an adverse affect on society. While these acts may be done in ignorance, they are no less harmful. Neither an individual’s well meaning attitude nor sincerity absolve the leader from the responsibility of their comments and actions. When this occurs, a leader will be honest with himself and others, take responsibility for their actions, and make every effort to right the wrong.
Derek Kidner makes the statement that “No law will protect people when integrity is absent.”
Now granted, I grew up in a small town in Texas, but the standard policy was that a man’s word was his bond and a handshake was all it took to close a deal. I grew up hearing that “honesty is the best policy.” Leadership is influence, and our influence is built on our credibility and honesty. I sometimes wonder if there has been a change in policy and I did not receive the memo.
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