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…)

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…)