Posts Tagged ‘excuses’

Admitting wrongs is quintessential leadershipNone of us is perfect.

We all screw up from time to time. And, sadly, because it’s part and parcel of being human, we screw up a lot more than most of us are willing or honest enough to admit to ourselves and to others.

However, the difference between quintessential leaders and unquintessential leaders is what we do after we’ve screwed up.

Since screwing up is inevitable at some point, we all have to decide if, when, and how we handle it.

And what we choose to do after our screw-ups will demonstrate whether we are quintessential leaders or not, because this is the true test of our character and this is the accurate measure of who we are and what we are in every aspect of our lives.

Consistently choosing a path of dealing with our screw-ups will establish a pattern of behavior and, with time, that pattern of behavior will become our habit.

So the choice we make to address our screw-ups is the key to whether we are becoming quintessential leaders or unquintessential leaders.

Let’s look at what the unquintessential leadership path of dealing with screw-ups looks like.

President Bill Clinton models unquintessential leadership when dealing with wrongs

Unfortunately, this unquintessential leadership consistency of choice that leads Hillary Clinton models unquintessential leadership when dealing with wrongsto a pattern of behavior that becomes a habit in dealing with screw-ups is no better exemplified than with the public lives of President Bill Clinton and his wife, 2016 presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Since the Clintons began a life in public service, they individually and together have an established pattern – now a habit – of dealing with screw-ups:

  • Ignore it
  • Deflect attention elsewhere
  • Deny it
  • Dance around it with technicalities to suggest no screw-up
  • Point to all the other people doing it
  • Call it an unjustified attack by enemies
  • Joke about it
  • Sort of admit it finally, but with excuses and justifications
  • Sort of apologize, but clearly don’t mean it or believe it

I will not rehash the many past instances of this pattern/habit during the Clintons’ many years of public service. It’s not my intention to make them the subject of this post, but to point out that they represent unquintessential leadership in dealing with screw-ups.

However, I will show how this looks right now with how Hillary Clinton has handled the issue of using a private email server and private email account for State Department communication during her time as United States Secretary of State.

errors-wrongs-mistakes-quintessential-leadershipQuite simply, Hillary Clinton screwed up. Although the policy of using State Department servers and emails was not in effect when Clinton became Secretary of State (a point she keeps invoking and twisting to justify and excuse why she did what she did), it was within just a few short months into her tenure.

Despite the government policy – and one of the unquintessential leadership traits common to not just the Clintons, but almost everyone in public office around the world, is “the rules don’t apply to me” – going into effect, Secretary Clinton ignored it and continued to use her private email server and private email account throughout her term as Secretary of State.

When it was finally revealed publicly (don’t believe that everybody in the U.S. government didn’t know about it already and just turned a blind eye until the media got wind of it), Hillary Clinton executed the unquintessential leadership habit of dealing with screw-ups that she has perfected perhaps over a lifetime.

Hillary Clinton, this week, finally got the the last step of this unquintessential leadership habit of dealing with screw-ups.

However, Clinton’s last step looks, in the video of her sort-of apology, as if someone’s got a gun to her head and is forcing her to make a statement that Clinton doesn’t agree with and doesn’t believe.

The irony is that it seems the poll numbers – in favorability and with other present and potential Democrat candidates for president – have pushed Hillary Clinton to the last step of the unquintessential leadership habit that she and her husband have developed for dealing with screw-ups.

But if took this long and this much drama and avoidance to deal trust-trustworthiness-quintessential-leaderwith, in the big scheme of what presidents have to deal with both nationally and internationally, a less significant screw-up in personal conduct and following the rules, then the essential issues become Hillary Clinton’s character and trustworthiness in everything.

How, then, do quintessential leaders deal with screw-ups?

To be fair, there are times that we don’t know right away that we’ve screwed up.

But those cases are more rare than we can sometimes lead ourselves to believe because quintessential leaders have very sensitive consciences that knock on our brains pretty quickly when we’ve messed up and don’t stop knocking until we fix it.

As soon as quintessential leaders realize they’ve screwed up, they take immediate action to:

  • Admit it
  • Own it completely (no excuses or justifications)
  • Sincerely apologize for it
  • Make amends for it by taking action to fix it
  • Learn from it so they don’t repeat it

This is the tangible evidence of who is and who isn’t a quintessential leader. In the process of doing this as a consistent pattern of behavior, it becomes the quintessential leader’s habit for dealing with screw-ups.

In the process, trust and trustworthiness is established and things get resolved quickly and correctly, instead of snowballing into something way bigger than whatever the original screw-up was.

five-alarm-fire-from-embers-not-doused-quicklyAnd this affects the bottom line for quintessential leaders, their teams and their organizations because they don’t waste their time, their energy, and their resources constantly firefighting ignored easily-quenchable embers that blow up into 5-alarm fires that threatens to destroy everything. 

So what path do you and I choose to handle the screw-ups we inevitably make in our lives, personally and professionally?

Do our patterns of behavior look like that of an unquintessential leader?

Do our patterns of behavior look like that of a quintessential leader?

Or are our patterns of behavior a mixture of unquintessential leadership and quintessential leadership?

I daresay this is one area where we all need to change and improve to make our patterns of behavior – which builds the lifelong habit – reflect quintessential leadership.

Nothing less is acceptable.

How are we doing?




What Transparency Looks LikeOne of the new organizational buzzwords is transparency. Today’s post will talk about what transparency looks like with quintessential leaders and what transparency looks like with everyone else.

You may be surprised to find that transparency among most people in leadership positions is illusionary, conditional, selective, and, in fact, is a lie because it doesn’t exist.

The word transparent at its simplest means to see through. Nothing is obscured, blurry, fuzzy, or out of view. Transparency, then, is the state or condition of being transparent. So anyone or any organization claiming transparency is describing their or its continual state or condition.

But is that true?

In most cases, the answer is “no.” While there is usually a lot of activity and A Smokescreen is Not Transparencycommunication to give the impression of transparency to the teams, what is done and what is said for everyone to see is essentially a smokescreen to keep teams feeling informed and included, while the real heart of the activity and communication – the business core – is conducted in secret behind closed doors among a small inner circle that has been sworn to secrecy.

So how do we know if a person or an organization is truly in a state or condition of transparency or not?

It’s quite simple.

Listen to them.

Anyone who or any organization that is constantly saying they are transparent is not.

People and organizations that are really see-through don’t ever have to say they are because it’s visible and obvious.

Only people and organizations with something to hide will make a conscious effort to regularly reiterate that they are committed to transparency. Just as liars will keep repeating their lies to try to convince others they are telling the truth, so will people and organizations that are not transparent who say over and over that they are.

So what are some key pieces of evidence that we can look for to see what transparency does not look like?

  1. A superficial and protective outer layer of smoke and mirrors that looks clear until it is placed on top of all the hidden layers and then nothing is clear. This looks like a plexiglass cover that is placed on top of wood-stained coffee table to protect it from damage and scratches.
  2. The Wizard of Oz behind the curtainA continuous barrage of stimulating, but meaningless, information designed to deflect attention and shift focus away from the nuts and bolts of what’s really happening and what’s substantive. This looks like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain projecting an illusionary image of reality.
  3. Saying one thing, but being the opposite. Actions always speak louder than words. There are far too many, since this reflects the majority of people who are currently in leadership positions, for me to name the most obvious examples I can see and think of. Look around your venue on the world. You won’t have to look far to find this behavior.

So then, now that we have seen what transparency doesn’t look like, since we are all striving to be quintessential leaders and transparency is a quality of quintessential leadership, then we must know what transparency does look like in action.

Real transparency lays all the cards on the tableReal transparency lays all the cards on the table up front. It takes a proactive approach to full disclosure of the facts and relevant circumstances, providing a big-picture framework to fully and completely encompass and describe the genesis and the outcome of decision-making.

Real transparency doesn’t sidestep controversy or issues, actions, words, etc. that are either perceived as a liability or were part of poor or ill-informed decision-making. We all have these in our realm of experience. 

Quintessential leaders, however, don’t try to sweep them under the rug and pretend they never happened, nor do they try to excuse, clarify, or blame them away. Instead, quintessential leaders own their missteps and mistakes and use them as teaching opportunities for the quintessential leaders they are developing on their teams.

The lessons of our failures and how we addressed and overcame them are the most valuable we can pass on to the next generation of quintessential leaders for several reasons.

First, future quintessential leaders understand that nobody is perfect and screwing up is sometimes part of the learning process.

Second, by our showing them step-by-step how we recovered, we are modeling a tangible and realistic example – showing them what it looks like in practice – of how to overcome, grow, and move forward.

Third, we are helping them, by sharing our experiences, hopefully not to repeat our missteps and mistakes. (When people portray themselves as perfect, there is no knowledge or experience to pass on to the next generation, who will find themselves in missteps and mistakes, but will model the unquintessential leadership example of no transparency that was modeled to them, ensuring that and perpetuating the same mistakes down the line to successive generations.)

Real transparency is WYSIWYGReal transparency doesn’t deceive, lie, or cover up anything. Everything’s an open book of reality, honesty, and what-you-see-is-what-you-get.

What unquintessential leaders don’t realize is that by not being transparent, they often spend most of their time dealing with the past (you will always hear more references to the past and especially to a mythical past of “glory days” than you will ever hear about detailed and actionable plans for how to navigate successfully through right here, right now and for navigating successfully through the future) and they, therefore, have little to no time to deal with the present and the future.

So, as always, we take the subject of transparency and we look critically, honestly and objectively into the mirrors of our own lives.

Do we faithfully practice total transparency in every aspect of our lives?

Do we practice transparency in some areas of our lives, but not others?

Do we not practice transparency anywhere in our lives?

Each of us can only answer these questions for ourselves. But we have to be willing to be honest and candid and to change, if we find anything less than total transparency in every aspect of our lives.

How are we doing? 


the quintessential leader building trust and being trust worthy book

In the first post of this series, the excerpt from chapter 1 included a list of all the components we must develop and have to build trust and be trustworthy.

In the subsequent chapter excerpts detailing the components we need to have and develop to build trust and be trustworthy, chapter 2 discusses honesty, chapter 3 discusses integrity, and chapter 4 discusses fairness.

This post, which includes an excerpt from chapter 5, discusses the component of righting wrongs that builds trust and makes us trustworthy.

It seems for us humans that admitting we were wrong, made a mistake, or totally screwed up is the hardest thing for us to do.

However, if we are not able to do this, then we can’t fix what we’ve broken and we can’t right what and/or we’ve wronged.

The ability to immediately own and immediately make right being wrong, the mistakes we make, and those colossal screw-ups that we all have in our lives is a part of character that is sadly lacking in most people in leadership positions today. 

That is one of the reasons why things spiral further out of control in a negative direction, why things get even more broken to the point of being beyond repair, and why there is so little trust in people in leadership positions. 

It doesn’t do any good to say “trust me” when all we’ve shown is an inability to be trustworthy at all, because we continue to leave ever-growing trails of unadmitted and unfixed breaks, wrongs, and disasters behind us.

Actions will always speak louder than words.

Building trust and being trustworthy is an integrated trait of quintessential leaders.

It is also an integrated trait that all of us – because each and every one of us leads at least one team, small or large, of people in our lives – need to develop and have as part of the core of who we are and what we are. In essence, this trait is at the center of exemplary character and conduct, and none of us should settle for anything less than this in ourselves and others.

Unfortunately, most of us settle for less. A lot less. In ourselves. In others. 

The majority of people in leadership positions today are not trust builders and they are not trustworthy. Many of us, frankly, are also not trust builders and trustworthy.

We live in a world that with no moral code as its foundation that expects trust to be non-existent or broken. Look around. It’s everywhere, including, in many cases, very close to you.

And society has become so accustomed to this that it glorifies it instead of condemning it.

Politicians who lie routinely, who line their pockets with money and perks while making decisions that hurt and destroy the people they are supposed to represent, who cheat on their wives because they can.

Arts and sports celebrities who have no regard for faithfulness to their spouses, who live hedonistic lifestyles that destroy their families, the people around them, and, eventually their lives.

Religious leaders who cheat on their wives, who cheat on their taxes, and who scam their congregations both in how they deceitfully handle the word of God and in coercive and corrupt financial matters, acquiring wealth and power in the process.

Business leaders who destroy millions of lives by deceit, fraud, and illegal actions that result in their employees and customers losing everything while they escape any kind of punitive action and instead reap obscene profits and end their tenures – only to go to another financially lucrative position – with golden parachutes that are equally obscene.

And we, as individual leaders for our teams, who cheat on our taxes, who are routinely dishonest with the children (our own and others) and other people entrusted to us, who routinely steal things from our workplaces (you most likely didn’t pay for that pen you’re using at work, so it doesn’t belong to you), who routinely break traffic laws, who will walk out of stores with something we were not charged for and never think twice about it, who will take extra money that we’re not owed in financial transactions without blinking an eye, who cheat on our spouses, who marry until “divorce do us part,” and who, as a course of habit, break confidences of family and friends, gossip about family and friends behind their backs, and destroy reputations in the process.

Maybe we haven’t thought about building trust and being trustworthy at this kind of nitty gritty level.

But until we do – and we develop and have this trait as the core of who and what we are – we will not build trust and we will not be trustworthy. And we will not be quintessential leaders.

Trust and trustworthiness is probably the single most important trait we can possess. And it is also the most fragile.

It can take a long time to build and be, but it can be broken irreparably in a single second.

Therefore, this is a lifetime work on and in ourselves that we must commit to making an integral part of our character by continually developing it, maintaining it, and growing it. 

This goal should be our goal.

But it requires courage. It requires diligence. It requires vigilance. It requires continual self-examination. It requires continual change. It requires the ability to, much of the time, stand alone to maintain.

It is not for the faint-hearted. It is not for the vacillators. It is not for the crowd-pleasers. It is not for the pretenders. It is not for the wannabes. It is not for the weak.

But if you’re reading this, I know that you’re not any of those kinds of people. Those kinds of people won’t even read this because it requires time, effort, change, and commitment, and too many of us are, sadly, either just too lazy or we just don’t care. 

Building Trust and Being Trustworthy takes an in-depth look at the “this is what it looks like in practice” aspect of each of the components we need to develop and have to build trust and be trustworthy. The second chapter discusses the component of honesty in building trust and being trustworthy.


Excerpt from”Chapter 5: The Righting Wrongs Component of Trust and Trustworthiness”

This chapter is one in which we’ll tackle a subject that addresses the heart of a quintessential leader. It is true that no one really knows our hearts completely except for God. However, behavior (actions and words) indicates the state of our character (good or bad) and character indicates the state of our inner selves – the heart.

I believe one of the most difficult things for all of us to do is to admit we made a mistake, we were wrong, or we screwed up. There is something intrinsic in us that wants to avoid that, deny that, excuse that, justify that, or even blame it on someone else.

This reticence to own up, to take responsibility for all of our words and actions will be addressed fully in an upcoming chapter on another of the components of trust and trustworthiness, which is accountability.

But the fact that we all wrestle with the admission of wrong-doing, in whatever form those words and/or actions took – and until we admit wrong-doing, we cannot right wrong-doing – shows that this is a quintessential leader trait we must be consciously working to both acquire and practice consistently. Without it, we will not be quintessential leaders. 

There are many examples of the fallout from being unwilling to admit and then to right wrongs that we can look at to see, as quintessential leaders, what not to do.

I will briefly summarize a few here, but I strongly encourage you to research on your own the many more examples from history, religion, society, and public life where wrongs were not admitted to and corrected to see how devastating the results were and to understand the things that each of us must be on guard to not repeat in our own lives and leadership of others.

I also strongly encourage each of us to look at our own lives for examples where we have not exhibited this quintessential leader trait.

Unfortunately, we all have them. We may not be in a position to go back and fix them all – if we are, we should – but we have the opportunity to learn the lessons and change so that we are consistently admitting, without excuses and blame, and righting our wrongs immediately.

There are two examples of people in leadership positions who lacked this quintessential leader trait in the Bible that stand out in my mind every time I read about them and I literally shake my head that they were unwilling to do anything about it, even though the consequences were dire and long-term.

My sister bought a pet storm door from Lowe’s in Matthews, NC about a year ago. Over time, several parts on the door proved defective. She had a one-year warranty on the door, so about two months ago, she contacted Lowe’s and they sent a contract installer out to fix the door.

He had all the parts he needed except one and told her he would order the part and have it shipped to her house for installation that week. The part never arrived and the many subsequent calls to Lowe’s about the part were a lot of empty promises, but no results.

It's Not My FaultYesterday, I called and asked to speak to the store manager. When he answered the phone, I began to explain the problem and the first thing he said as he interrupted me before I finished was that the store doesn’t do the installations, so it wasn’t his fault, but instead the installer’s fault.

I politely told him that Lowe’s sold the door, so ultimately the responsibility was theirs, so he needed to get it taken care of. He said “I’ll call you right back.”

Thirty minutes later, I called back. When he answered, I reminded him that he’d told me he’d call right back. He was clearly annoyed and said he had just hung up with me ten minutes before. I told him it had been thirty minutes, and the reason I was calling back was this was the same thing that my sister had been listening to in repeated phone calls for about six weeks and there were never any calls back.

I made it clear that the problem had been unresolved long enough and I wanted a solution. I could hear by the tone of his voice that he was irritated, but he told me – which I doubt – that he was on the phone with the installation company, throwing in one more time that the problem was not Lowe’s’ fault. I told him I expected a resolution within the hour.

The installation company’s manager called me about five minutes later. I explained, without interruption, the problem and he told me that he’d get an installer out today if Lowe’s had the part needed in stock. I told him that this was poor leadership and poor customer service and that my sister shopped often at Lowe’s for home improvement items, but there were other home improvement choices within sight of Lowe’s and the odds were good she was going to be taking her future business there. He listened and he got it.

Just a few minutes later he called back and said an installer would be at my sister’s house between 9 am and 10 am this morning to do the installation. I thanked him.

The time frame came and went this morning (my sister had a dentist appointment at 11 am this morning) with noUnquintessential Leadership

‘I counted internally to ten to get my temper under control and then told him politely but firmly that the internal problems of communication, follow-up, and completion of jobs between Lowe’s and the installation company were not my concern as a customer. The door was purchased at Lowe’s and all subsequent work was coordinated by Lowe’s, so the responsibility was his as the store manager. I told him to get it resolved or I would have no choice but to escalate it to the Lowe’s corporate office.

He said he’d call me back once he got it resolved. Not only did he not call back, but he did not bother to call the installation company either. At 10:55 am, while my sister and I were at the dentist’s office waiting for her to go back, the installer called and said he was at the house and asked if anyone was home.

I explained that no one was there and that was why the appointment was scheduled between 9 am and 10 am – he then started making excuses about why he was late (I asked why he didn’t call this morning if he knew he was running late and we could have rescheduled, and he gave me another set of excuses) – so he’d have to come back. Supposedly, he will be here tomorrow morning between 8 am and 8:30 am.

The store manager at the Matthews, NC Lowe’s exhibited pure unquintessential leadership. It is clear that he doesn’t have a big-picture understanding that losing customers affects the company’s profits and when corporate profits fall, stores close and this one could well be one of those that closes and he will be out of work.

Had he been a quintessential leader, he would have done the following:

  • Listened without interrupting
  • Taken ownership of the problem and the solution
  • Followed up with me each step of the way in the process
  • Offered a good-will gesture, such as a store credit or a gift certificate, for all the things that went wrong to retain a customer

As quintessential leaders, we can never afford to have an experience like this one take place under our watches. Everything matters.

Want to know the heart, the core, the soul of what being a quintessential leader is? It is building trust and being trustworthy. Without this, you cannot be a quintessential leader. Without this, you cannot be a leader. Period.

Let’s get real. It doesn’t matter how many platitudes you give. It doesn’t matter how many buzz words you use. It doesn’t matter how many leadership seminars you conduct, how many leadership articles you write, how many leadership lectures you give. If you are not living and being these traits of building trust and being trustworthy, then you are not a quintessential leader and your example, your seminars, your writing, your lectures are perpetuating a fraud on your teams, your students, your readers, and your audiences.

As quintessential leaders, our responsibility is to build trust and be trustworthy. We say that is who we are, but do we really know how far that commitment takes us? It’s definitely the narrow path, but to be genuine, authentic, and quintessential leaders and not wannabe’s, which is what we see around us in most of the people in leadership positions, we must commit and adhere to that. Otherwise, there will be no real leadership.

Let’s make sure we’re not pretenders. Let’s make sure we’re not following the crowd. Let’s make sure we know what we need to do – from our families, because this is where quintessential leadership starts, for our neighbors, for our teams, for our business units, for our organizations, for our towns, for our states, for our countries, for our brothers and sisters in the human race.

You and I have a personal responsibility to do this. It doesn’t matter whether anyone else is doing it or not. You and I answer for ourselves alone, not for anyone else. Anything less than ensuring that you and I are fulfilling our responsibility to build trust and be trustworthy is an excuse.

Quintessential leadership doesn’t have excuses. It is action. Let’s take action today. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow.