Posts Tagged ‘honesty’

Daddy as a little boyMy dad was the first quintessential leader I encountered in life. He wasn’t perfect – none of us are – but who he was and how he lived his life was anchored to the principles of quintessential leadership.

In the years since Daddy’s death in 1998, I’ve met and or reconnected with many people who knew my dad well and one of the things I’ve consistently heard about him was that he was a good man, a kind man, and a gentle man with an open heart ready to serve and open ears and time ready to listen. (more…)

Failure to communicate is a quintessential leader challenge and problemIn life and in leadership, even among quintessential leaders, many of the upsets, mishaps, implosions, and irreparable fissures that we experience are begun and ended by communication. 

Communication is perhaps the one thing we all struggle – and I do hope that we, at least as quintessential leaders, do struggle, because this means thinking before we speak or write, choosing our words carefully before we speak or write them to avoid misunderstanding and to exactly convey our exact meaning – mightily with at every turn in this thing called life. (more…)

unimitable unquintessential leadershipThe lack of a synchronized life of imitable authenticity among humans – and people in leadership positions – in what they say, who they are, and how they conduct every part of their lives is bemoaned almost constantly.

The reality is that what we do observe is an abundance of synchronized lives of not-to-be-imitated authenticity, more so now than ever before. 

We now live in a society where being fundamentally selfish, self-centered, and driven by power and greed – something often hidden or obscured from public view in times past – has become not only visible, but accepted, expected, and applauded. 

While some people in leadership positions posture with a public face of integrity, honesty, selflessness, transparency, and altruism with their words when their actions are the exact opposite (these are the ones who cause the bemoaning), most people in leadership positions now don’t try to hide how nefarious they are as people and in their leadership positions.

Bullying, cheating, one-upping, fighting, lying, treating people abominably, being perpetually profane and denigrating, and overall defective character among people in leadership positions is now considered admirable and the mark of strong leadership.

Are we who say we are striving to be quintessential leaders different? We should be. Increasingly, though, it seems that although we say we are different, in fact everything else about us says that we are less different that we purport to be.

Are we who say we're quintessential leaders in fact hypocrites?In other words, we are hypocrites, saying one thing about ourselves while the rest of our lives says the exact opposite. It seems that we have gotten comfortable lying to ourselves – and others – about ourselves.

When we live (and believe) a lie – saying one thing and doing and being something completely different – we are not quintessential leaders, but instead we are destroyers.

Most importantly, we destroy trust. With trust, we destroy credibility. When we lose trust and credibility, we destroy our teams. In every part of our lives.

Oh yes, the people around us may do – or pretend to do – what we tell them to, but it is not out of trust and respect.

For a few – and it’s a small few – of our teams, the reason is fear.

For most of our teams, though, it is a stopgap measure until – and they are scrambling to find the fastest exit – they can get as far away from us as possible. 

If we’re losing our teams in droves, as quintessential leaders (this implies we care and we don’t want to lose them – no effort means we were lying about being quintessential leaders to begin with) we need to ask ourselves the following questions.

Do we want to inspire fear in our teams? Do we want to threaten and coerce our teams into doing whatever we want or else? Do we want our communication to be profane, denigrating, disrespectful, and dismissive?

Are we willing to cheat – the end justifies the means – anywhere and everywhere in our lives to get what we want and/or to get ahead? Are we willing to throw other people under the bus to make ourselves look good? Are we willing to be dishonest (lying, stealing, faking) to either avoid consequences or to get more for ourselves?

Do we care about our teams or are they just expendable commodities that we use, abuse, and then throw away when we can’t use and abuse them anymore? Are we sycophants with people we see as useful or important and tyrants with everyone else?

Who are we really? Do we know? Do we care? Does it matter?

The people we are best at fooling are ourselves. Most of us, even those of us who are striving to be quintessential leaders, are not aware of the depth of our self-deception about who and what we really are on the inside.

Where are the disconnects in our lives?Today, I challenge each of us to take stock of ourselves, of our lives, and of the disconnects we make between what we say we are and what we actually are.

We all have disconnects in our lives. Quintessential leaders acknowledge that, become aware of theirs, and undertake the process of doing something about it.

That’s imitable authenticity and that is a repeatable step (we can’t do it once and believe we’re done – it must be a daily part of our lives) that will lead to a synchronized life that sets a positive, realistic, and credible example to all the teams in our lives.

Anything less is unacceptable for quintessential leaders.

How are we doing? 

Unquintessential leaders don't acknowledge their limitations and are chameleonsIt seems to be more and more difficult – if not impossible – for people to acknowledge their limitations in any area of life. Because of the ubiquitous influence of technology – and our exploding addiction to it – society in general seems to have been lulled into the deception that everyone’s an expert, everyone knows everything, and no one has any limitations.

Quintessential leaders stand out as the increasingly rare exceptions to this general trend. We know our areas of expertise, but equally important, we know our limitations even in those areas as well as our limitations in all the other areas where we are either not experts or truly don’t have clue. 

What does not acknowledging our limitations, which is what unquintessential leaders do, look like? What causes it? And what are the results?

Do you know people who seem to be chameleons? Are you a chameleon?

Chameleons – the reptiles – are notorious for adapting to whatever environment they are in by changing their skin color to match the environment around them. This is both a protective function (you can’t be eaten if you can’t be seen) and a predatory function (if your prey can’t see you, they’ll willingly stroll casually right into being your dinner). 

In many ways, human chameleons can have the same protective and predatory functions.

Not all human chameleons are even aware that they are chameleons. In this case, the chameleon function is protective.

Protective chameleonThe way it looks in humans as protective function is that they change completely to fit in whatever group they are in at a given time. They literally look like several different people in one body.

Perhaps these chameleons are unaware of the striking contradictions this presents in the big picture of their lives. Perhaps it doesn’t matter because the reward they receive is what matters most.

These protective chameleons are insecure with themselves and with their abilities. They are people-pleasers and they want everybody to like them and to accept them. They are consummate “yes” people to everybody. They’re always the first to agree, the first to raise their hands, and the first to say they’re on board with anything in any group they are in.

The results of being a protective chameleon bring about the exact opposite of what protective chameleons are trying to achieve.

Because they can’t possibly do everything they agree to do, they either just simply don’t do most of what they say they will do or they take so long to do it that someone else ends up having to get it done.

This often looks like procrastination, but in reality it’s the result of needing to be liked and accepted to such a great extent that protective chameleons overpromise and overcommit, knowing they can’t do – and perhaps not even intending to do – what they’ve promised and committed to do. 

Therefore, protective chameleons are undependable. They appear to be wishy-washy. And they destroy trust.

Predatory chameleonPredatory chameleons are consciously duplicitous and deceitful. They knowingly pretend to be an integral part of whatever group of people they are with. These people are often charming and engaging, and they will encourage full disclosure with assurances of confidentiality in each group they’re with.

Predatory chameleons are information brokers. Their sole intent is to get information and use that information for their own gain (money or power or both).

Predatory chameleons have played the game a long, long time and they know exactly what they are doing and they know the rewards it will bring them. In other words, they don’t care as long as they get what they want.

Like protective chameleons, predatory chameleons also destroy destroy trust. Unlike most protective chameleons, predatory chameleons also intentionally destroy lives. That is actually part of the reward for them.

No matter which type of chameleon these people are, one of the common characteristics they share is the inability and the unwillingness to ever acknowledge their limitations. In other words, they are fundamentally, whether its conscious or not, dishonest.

Quintessential leaders, on the other hand, value honesty and integrity as essential parts of their character.

Quintessential leaders are not going to pretend to be somebody they are not or to know something they don’t or to do something they either can’t do or don’t want to do.

Saying “no” is not taboo. In fact, it’s often the right thing to do. It is often the smart thing to do. It is often the sane thing to do. 

But we live in a society where saying “yes,” even if it’s a lie, to everything is not only accepted, but expected.

That’s a significant integrity problem that the entire human race is saddled with now. And, sadly, few people recognize it and even fewer people struggle against it to do the right thing.

Shame on us.

There is also a lot of integrity in saying “I don’t know,” which is what quintessential leaders do when they really don’t know something.

Of course, they always offer to find out if that “I don’t know” is just something they are unfamiliar with, but would be able to do with the right resources or if that “I don’t know” means they really aren’t able to do something.

So, quintessential leaders not only recognize their limitations, but they also acknowledge them. They believe in and practice full disclosure of what they are able do and what they aren’t able to do at all times.

It might cost them financially because they lose potential business and income to someone else who can do what they can’t.

It might cost them socially because they won’t conform to norms that violate their principles and beliefs.

But here is the one thing it won’t cost them: trust. Even if quintessential leaders lose potential customers (and income) or they lose social relationships because they acknowledge their limitations, they will have built trust.

The social relationships generally don’t come back and that, in the end, is just as well. But even those people will remember the quintessential leader as someone who had integrity and courage even if they vehemently disagree with them.

Potential customers, on the other hand, even though they may have chosen a different route, will remember the trustworthiness of quintessential leaders and they will come back in the future. That’s a guarantee.

Especially in a world where honesty and trust is in short supply and each passing day reveals more broken trust and dishonesty everywhere we look.

Once trust is broken, it is, seldom, if ever, possible to regain it and/or repair it. It is one of the most valuable things that each us has and it is heartbreaking to see how lightly and casually we treat it. 

So now is the time for you and me who are striving to become quintessential leaders to look into our own lives and see where we stand in the area of acknowledging our own limitations.

chameleon-unquintessential-leaderAre we chameleons? 

If we are chameleons, are we protective chameleons or are we predatory chameleons?

If we are chameleons, are we okay with being chameleons, no matter which type we are?

Are we consistently striving to be quintessential leaders in this area of our lives?

No matter what you and I answer to these questions, if we aren’t happy with the answer, there is a remedy.

The remedy is change. Change requires us to be rigorously honest with ourselves. Change requires us to be conscious of the things that we are doing and why. Change requires us to consciously replace the behavior we don’t want with the behavior we do want.

As always, change is a process and none of us change easily or perfectly or overnight. But we can’t change if we don’t commit to it and don’t take that first step and follow it up with every other step toward the right direction.

How are we doing?

 

Coach Dean Smith UNC quintessential leaderCoach Dean Smith, who led the University of North Carolina basketball program for 36 years, died on February 7, 2015 after a long battle with dementia. Throughout his coaching career and his life after coaching, Coach Smith embodied many of the characteristics of quintessential leadership.

He was not a perfect man, but none of us can claim perfection either. There were times when he wasn’t a quintessential leader, just as there are times we are not quintessential leaders.

But when Coach Smith’s life as a whole, both on the basketball court and off, is considered (and that’s the only way to consider anyone’s life, including our own, because no one – including each of us – gets it right every single time), it’s clear that his goal was to be a quintessential leader. And the results of his commitment to that goal are evident to this day.

I grew up in North Carolina. But me being an UNC basketball fan was not a given. My dad got his undergraduate degree from Wake Forest and he taught physical therapy at Duke University and did a year of pre-veterinary schools studies at North Carolina State University. My mom studied medical technology at Duke University, which is where she and my dad met and made their lifelong commitment to each other. (more…)

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.

The second post in this series, which included an excerpt from chapter 2 of Building Trust and Being Trustworthy, looked at the component of honesty in building trust and being trustworthy.

This post will include an excerpt from chapter 3 of Building Trust and Being Trustworthy

Another component of building trust and being trustworthy that we must have is integrity.

Most people don’t realize that integrity and honesty are two distinct but complementary components of building trust and being trustworthy. This chapter defines and shows what integrity does and doesn’t look like.

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.

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Excerpt from”Chapter 3: The Integrity Component of Trust and Trustworthiness”

We have already looked in-depth at the honesty component of trust and trustworthiness, and now we will look a corresponding and complementary component: integrity. They are not the same, although both must be present in quintessential leaders. To separate them more logically in thinking, honesty is how a person is (conduct), while integrity is who and what a person is (values and standards).

Generally, one doesn’t exist without the other because they depend on each other. If you observe someone who’s habitually dishonest with him or herself and others in any and/or every part of his or her life, you will find upon further observation, that person also lacks integrity. On the other hand, if you see someone who’s habitually honest with him or herself in any and/or every part of his or her life, upon further observation of that person, you will learn that he or she possesses integrity.

The word integrity comes from the root word integral, which means, among other things, entirecomplete, or whole. And that is a strong part of what integrity actually is. It is undivided and unwavering with regard to moral principles, to right and wrong, to right values and standards.

There  is no deviation, regardless of circumstances or costs. It is a systemic quality that affects everything in life. If it’s not a part of a person, life is perpetually chaotic, a free-for-all, and completely unpredictable in terms of directions and outcomes. If it is part of a person, there’s an unchangeable and dependable framework that can be trusted and counted on no matter what’s going on inside the frame.

So, what does integrity look like in action? It first has an intrinsic set of immutable values and standards and adheres to those values and standards, no matter what. Second, it is a conscious and deliberate choice of service – selflessness – over self-interest.

Integrity, by default, is encapsulated by Spock’s famous statement before sacrificing his life to save the rest of the Enterprise crew in The Wrath of Khan: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.” A quintessential leader will have the integrity to do what’s best for everyone, not just what’s best for him or herself. There is never a component of self-interest as a guiding principle in decision-making.

Integrity is also demonstrated by good stewardship. A quintessential leader will use resources correctly and judiciously and will acquire and allocate them fairly and skillfully, maximizing the benefit to all, based on needs, not wants.

Additionally, a quintessential leader will guard and protect those resources, ensuring that they are not diluted or wasted (this includes people – a good team can be undone by just one person that is not contributing or is actively creating divisions and disruptions).”