Posts Tagged ‘lying’

lying, deception, and dishonesty are not the traits of quintessential leadersAmong the many legacies the past 20 or so years have left us as a society with, one of the most tragic, from a quintessential leadership perspective, is the widely-accepted and heartily-embraced death of the truth.

This death has occurred everywhere in our society: in our businesses, in our homes, in our schools, in our religious organizations, and in our local, state, and national governments.

Sadly, it is a death virtually no one has noticed – because it was a slow, subtle, creeping death – and virtually no one has mourned or is mourning. (more…)

Volkswagon Cheaters Are Not Leaders“But everybody cheats!”



It seems to be a hardwired tendency in human nature that fuels the desire to cheat. Behind that desire is the promise of big rewards: winning a game, better grades, more money, big promotions at work, lots of stuff, and being the proverbial king of the hill: CEO, world leader, president or executive director of a non-profit.

And looking around, as those of us striving to be quintessential leaders do, it seems that cheating pays off in big ways. Cheaters seem to thrive because they cheat and because they are so good at it

The majority of people we see in leadership positions are cheaters. Of those, only a minority have been caught cheating. And even within that minority, many have cheated their ways out of being discovered as cheaters.

As a society, it seems we admire cheaters. We glamorize them and laud their schemes as brilliant and worthy of emulation.

Cheating is so accepted in our society that it shows up in our everyday language.

“I’m going to cheat on my diet just a little bit.”

“I admit that I cheated and substituted canned corn for fresh corn.”

Cheating is an integral part of our lives and vocabulary“I cheated and did my son’s math homework because I didn’t have time to explain it to him.”

“We cheated and ducked out of the reunion early to go to a movie.”

You get the picture. It is clear that the desire to cheat is so everpresent in our thinking that it makes its way very liberally in our speech (and clearly we don’t think before we speak because we give no consideration to what our speech says about our character).

“But it’s harmless. It’s just an expression. It doesn’t really mean that I would cheat on anything big or important. Lighten up!”


Notice the third sentence in that defense of using the word “cheat” in everyday conversation. That sentence – It doesn’t really mean that I would cheat on anything big or important. –  gives us insight into how deep the desire to cheat goes.

The speaker has just told us that they will – and do – cheat and they’ve given us the parameters within which they will or won’t cheat.

And since the speaker decides what is big or important (situational ethics), they’ve clearly given themselves the latitude to cheat at anything and everything.

How many times do we see disgruntled people in leadership positions of one organization leave and form a rival organization and then, by hook or crook (another cheating idiom), lure people from the original organization over to their new organization?

It literally happens all the time. Every day. Multiple times a day.

How many times do we – you and I – cheat every day?

With misinformation in the form of omission, slanting, twisting and spinning that puts things in a favorable light for us?

By cutting corners on something we are working on?

By doing our own personal things on someone else’s time and then taking the money for time when we were not actually working?

By embellishment or outright lying to make ourselves look better or to be seen in a more favorable light?

By manipulating other people emotionally to gain favor with them?

Cheating is rampant. As a way of thinking and being it is deeply ingrained in our society, in our species, and in each one of us personally.

But cheaters are not leaders. They are just cheaters. Morally and ethically bankrupt, they lack the ability, the talent, and the integrity to accomplish anything without cheating.

VW TDI Beetles, Jettas, Passats are among the 2009-2015 models with the cheating emission softwareThe emissions-cheating software (the software could detect an emissions test and could fake the right numbers to pass) that the people in leadership positions at Volkswagen approved and had installed on at least 11 million diesel cars (this is likely just the tip of the iceberg) is an example of cheating at the organizational level.

General Motors’ ignition switch debacle is another example of cheating at the organizational level.

It’s always tempting for members of the organizations to think “well, that was them, but it wasn’t/isn’t me” in the rare cases when organizational cheating comes to light (it’s important to understand that these are not isolated incidents for these organizations nor are they the worst examples of cheating they are guilty of).

Temptations are wrong for a reason. They always lead us down the path of darkness, which includes rationalization, blame, and excuses.

“I’m not guilty of cheating; I just worked there” is no different than the familiar military refrain of “I just did what I was told to do.”

To pull off organizational cheating, everyone associated with that organization in any way, shape, or form has to buy into the cheat.

Sometimes the buy in is based on disinformation or misinformation, especially the further you go down into the organization, but each person still has their individual responsibility for buying into the cheat.

It’s at this point that each of must confront ourselves. We all face this ethical dilemma more than we probably consciously realize, and, sadly, many of us shrug and say “That’s just the way things are,” and continue on surrounded by cheating and tacitly endorsing it by doing so.

In confronting ourselves, though, we must first look at our own lives to see where we think about – and sometimes act on – cheating.

We humans have a funny way of seeing our own character defects – like cheating – in a different (and innocuous) light than the character defects of others, whether they are individuals or organizations. In the process, ours become marginalized while everyone else’s becomes egregious.

That is why it so much easier to pass judgment on everyone but ourselves and why we can condemn everyone else and hold ourselves up as paragons of virtue.

It’s a lie we’ve gotten good at telling ourselves. None of us is as virtuous as we believe we are. We all – yes, even those of us striving to be quintessential leaders – have hearts of darkness that fight to govern our thoughts, our words, and our actions continually.

The difference, however, with those of striving to be quintessential leaders is that we are aware of our tendency toward being anything but virtuous. We are aware of our hearts of darkness that can sometimes burn intensely in our inner worlds.

And those of us who long to be quintessential leaders are actively engaged in the war to not only deny our vices and our black hearts, but to change our vices to virtues and the darkness of our hearts to light.

It is the war of our lives and the battles never stop coming. Admittedly, we lose our fair share of those battles along the way, but by staying actively involved in the war for our character and our integrity, eventually we see the results in fewer and fewer losses as we gain control over the territory of our minds and our hearts.

Are you a cheater or are you a leader?

You can only be one or the other.

How are we doing?

Too often people, whether they are in leadership positions or not, refuse to be accountable and take responsibility for their lives, their actions, and their words. We live in a society that encourages and enables blaming everyone and everything else for issues, problems, and mistakes in our lives. This behavior (trait) is called the blame game. Its presence can be seen pervasively everywhere – globally, organizationally, and personally – we look around us.

When people in leadership positions (and this is increasingly the rule rather than the exception) resort to the blame game, the results can be devastating, destructive, and even fatal (I am working on an upcoming post about the past and present unquintessential leadership at General Motors that includes the blame game as one component). malaysian airlines MH17 attack Ukraine unquintessential leadership

The blame game involves a complex web of lies those who employ it tell themselves. While we won’t discuss all the lies involved, we will discuss the two that seem to weigh the most heavily in the blame game.

The first lie is that we are passive victims of our circumstances and we have no power over changing them. As we discussed in “Quintessential Leadership Practically Applied: If Things Aren’t Working, Then Change Them,” none of us are passive observers and participants in our lives.

Each of us has the ability and the responsibility to take action when issues, problems, and mistakes occur. That is the accountability trait of building trust and being trustworthy.

The second lie is that our actions (or words) are the result of others’ actions (words (i.e., “if they didn’t do/say that, I wouldn’t be doing/saying this”). This is the ultimate cop-out. Our actions and words should never be based on what others do and say or don’t do and say. They should instead be based on our core: character, integrity, and principles that are absolute, moral, and right, no matter what.

To see a current example of the unquintessential leader trait of the blame game, we need to look no further than Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response to the surface-to-air missile attack yesterday (July 17, 2014) on Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine that resulted in the death of all 295 passengers and crew members on the plane:

Russian President Vladimir Putin“Undoubtedly, the government in whose air space this happened bears responsibility for this terrible tragedy” and “this tragedy would not have happened if there were peace in this land, or in any case, if [Kiev] had not renewed hostilities in south-eastern Ukraine.”

Essentially, President Putin is blaming the Ukrainians who want to maintain their independence from Russian for the attack and deaths of MH17’s passengers and crew.

But the reason there is no peace in Ukraine is because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, aided by pro-Russian Ukrainians, forcing independent Ukrainians to protect their land and their independence.

In other words, there would be peace (as relative as the term “peace” is on a planet that is strongly disposed to war at the slightest provocation) in Ukraine if the Russians had not broken the peace.

Additionally, data and research into the missile attack has revealed that the missile was provided by the Russians to the pro-Russian Ukranians who launched the attack. While the attack was happening, the pro-Russian Ukranians were in contact with the Russian military (there have been several other downed flights in that air space this past week, but none of the other planes were civilian) and had their approval.

So instead of President Putin manning up (the blame game is a coward’s game) and taking responsibility for the attack (in terms of war, it was a mistake, because they had no way of knowing whether they were attacking a military plane or a civilian plane), he shows his unquintessential leadership by putting all the blame on the Ukrainians who were forced into fighting for their independence by President Putin’s and the Russian military’s action against Ukraine earliest this year.

So, the question for us, fellow quintessential leaders, is are we consistently accountable and take responsibility for the issues, problems, and mistakes in our lives (and that sometimes we alone cause and make), or do we, if not all the time, from time to time, exhibit the unquintessential leader trait of playing the blame game?

How are we doing?

In one of Mike Myatt’s latest articles for Forbes online, entitled “9 Reasons to Lead in a No-Spin Zone,” this quote caught my attention because it describes quintessential leaders: “The reality is the best leaders are also absolutists when it comes to truth – they view truth as a non-negotiable.” And the first of Myatt’s reasons for this absoluteness is that telling the truth is a habit.

This trait of unwavering, habitual truthfulness is one of the components I identify as being a trust-builder and being viewed as worthy of trust in my book, Building Trust and Being Trustworthy, but what does it mean and what does it look like? (more…)

Today’s post will take a brief look what quintessential leadership and unquintessential leadership look like in terms of character. Increasingly, it seems that both people in leadership positions and the people they lead believe that character is irrelevant to a person’s ability to lead.

However, that is not true.

quintessential leadership character mattersThe type of character a person possesses is the critical component to whether someone is a quintessential leader or an unquintessential leader, because character defines who and what we are as people. Character is something that we are at all times. It is an essential component in determining whether we are building trust and are trustworthy or we are destroying trust and are untrustworthy.

Anthony Weiner and Bob Filner are two people in leadership positions who’ve been in the spotlight recently because of character issues. However, both have proven themselves, not only in what they’ve done, but how they’ve handled what they’ve done, to be unquintessential leaders.

What does a lack of character and unquintessential leadership look like? 

  • Belief that character and the ability to lead are not connected
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Patent inability to admit being wrong
  • Refusal to take responsibility, blaming others
  • Refusal to apologize
  • Refusal to make amends
  • Refusal to change
  • Lack of care or concern about effects of behavior

What does character and quintessential leadership, then, look like?

  • Understanding that character and the ability to lead are intrinsically connected
  • Remorse when wrong
  • Admit when wrong
  • Take responsibility and blame self
  • Apologize
  • Make amends
  • Willingness to change
  • Great care and concern about effects of behavior

We all struggle with character as humans, but as quintessential leaders, we must win that struggle. And that means who we are on the inside must match who we say we are and project ourselves to be on the outside.

Because we live with our internal selves 24/7, each of us has the responsibility to continually:

  • Assess ourselves
  • Admit where we fall short of the character standard
  • Apologize for and fix in our lives, if we are able, whatever’s been broken because of our shortfalls
  • Remove the shortfall
  • Change

Character matters. It always has. It does. It always will.

“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” The Prince – Niccolo Machiavelli 

While the exact phrase “the end justifies the means” is never found in Machiavelli’s renowned 1532 work, The Prince, there is absolutely no doubt this is one of the distilled philosophies that you come away with after reading it. I remember reading it in high school and being bothered by it, but in rereading it a few years back, perhaps because this is just the way the world – individually and collectively – with very very few exceptions does things now, my sense of bother had deepened to disgust and a conscious rejection of all the tenets and principles in the book. Machiavelli, it seems, would have fit right into the 21st Century with his promotion of situational ethics and relative morality or total immorality in every aspect of life.

This post is about ethics and process. Ethics is defined as “a system of moral principles;” and “the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group;” and “that branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.” By “process,” I mean how and why we, individually and collectively, do things to achieve a desired outcome.

Let me say at the outset that ethics and process is a constant struggle, and many times we’ve absorbed so much of what’s going on around us – “that’s what everyone else is doing,” – and we live in an ADHD world that leaves us little free time – unless we make the conscious choice to create free time – to think through our processes – and we have adapted to a world philosophy that justifies being unethical to achieve goals (the mantra of this is “well, it’s not hurting anybody,” which we’ll discover is absolutely untrue, except the people getting hurt are not the ones we might think). Additionally, we’ve fallen into the trap of believing that the outcome of something is what is most important, not how we got there – that the end justifies the means.

It is my belief that how we got there is far more important and significant than the end result. If the process is wrong, flawed, faulty, deceitful, or in any other way dishonest, the end result is nullified. Because defects of character, a lack of integrity, and disregard for ethics characterizes the process. Some examples of this process-ethics problem on an individual level are things that as I read them I continually ask myself “is this something I’ve done, am doing, or would do?” I believe that being very aware of all my processes – and asking myself “is this right or is this wrong?” and “is it at its very core honest or dishonest?” – in life is critical to having right character and unimpeachable integrity, because, when it’s all said and done, those are the only things I will leave this life with. As Marc Antony so eloquently says in his eulogy of Julius Caesar, “The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones:

A story last week in The Atlantic about the housing bust had these two quotes from one of the investigators with Digital Risk, a company that exists solely to catch mortgage fraud. The first quote is a bit surprising: “pastors—dozens of them—who doctored bank statements, bought houses they couldn’t pay for, and then filed for bankruptcy. “’…The nice thing about pastors is that their church shares information when asked,’ Alpan says. ‘Pastors are always an easy [fraud] claim.'” The second quote seemed, to me, to sum up, in general, society’s, individually and collectively, default process: “‘It’s not just lawyers and pastors and CEOs who lie and scheme. It’s nurses and schoolteachers, too,’ he says. ‘Everybody’s guilty; no one’s up to any good.'”

How about the educators in Atlanta, GA who were involved in cheating on the state’s standardized testing, in which more federal funding – and teacher and administrator jobs – were at stake for low test scores? This is the epitome of a unethical and dishonest process being employed by individuals for a “good” – although in my opinion, keeping these educators in their jobs would not have been good for the students – goal. What kind of example did they set for the kids they were entrusted to educate? They taught them that cutting corners, cheating, and lying were acceptable if those behaviors achieved the end goal. Am I the only one who believes these kids took that lesson – and process – to heart and everything they do from here on out will be suspect, process-wise?

On an even more personal level, how many of us have fudged the deductions on our income taxes to either avoid paying or to pay less than what we legitimately owe in taxes? Many non-monetary charities – furniture, clothes, etc. – simply allow you to tell them the value of your donation and they sign it and give you the receipt. If we donated to one of these, were we honest about the value of our donation? Did we take other deductions that we weren’t allowed to or inflate the amount of other allowable deductions? That’s an unethical, deceitful, and dishonest process.

Our individual unethical and dishonest processes aggregate in the organizations we are members of professionally, socially, and religiously. Common and frequently-used examples  of how these processes look at the organizational level (and because I’ve been in technology – and often that includes being in the inner workings of organizations, especially as they have become inextricably linked over the course of time – since the beginning of my career, there isn’t much I haven’t seen and heard, but a lot I’ve had to say “no” to or, with time because my process, which is, to the best of my ability, to be honest and ethical no matter what, to simply not be asked even though the people who are asked and say “yes” end up talking to me about it and I tell them “don’t expect the people you’re doing this for to visit you in that federal penitentiary”) include:

  • Encouraging members of the organization to access the organization’s web site from as many unique IP addresses as they can on a regular basis to artificially drive up the traffic statistics and boost the organic search engine rankings
  • Encouraging members of the organization to post favorable online reviews of the organization’s products to create the illusion that lots of people want and like the products
  • Creating fictional web sites that purport to objectively compare your organization’s products with competing organizations’ products where your organization’s products are rated higher than all the others
  • Encouraging and/or having members of the organization to use social media contacts (who may or may not actually be interested in the organization or its products) to “like” the organizations’ social media pages to boost their search rankings

And technology is not the only area where we see the ever-increasing trend toward unethical, deceitful, and dishonest processes. There is rampant federal and state tax fraud. I know of one example where at least a year’s worth of financial documents was fabricated using PhotoShop to hide what had really been the true financial documentation of the organization. Even some charitable contributions have the dark shadow of unethical and dishonest processes behind them. A recent account was given by the chairman of an organization in which he detailed how he circumvented “the system” – which included evading costs and time doing it the honest and legal way would have required – to get a piece of medical equipment to a someone in a foreign country and it was all justified – Jeremiah 17:9 – because it was a “good deed.”  And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s not hurting anybody, right? Wrong! There may not be identifiable victims of the fraud being perpetrated, but people who are counting on veracity are being defrauded. Additionally, the person/people executing the unethical, deceitful, and dishonest processes are definitely hurting themselves. Right character, good character, and integrity are much more easily destroyed than they are created. The first time we use an unethical, deceitful, and dishonest process, there is usually a pang of conscience that accompanies it – if indeed, we’ve developed any kind of conscience at all.

I’ve found that if I have to spend a lot of time debating on whether I should do something or not, process-wise, and there’s a knot in my stomach to accompany the indecision, then the wisest thing is stop and review my process for integrity, honesty, and ethical correctness. However, if we ignore the pang of conscience and do it the way we want to anyway, our character is damaged. The next time the wrong way to do something to achieve a goal presents itself, it will be easier to do, because the pang of conscience has been diminished. 

So why does it matter what the process is as long as the outcome is achieved? Because once this way of doing things comes into and is accepted in just one of our processes, it eventually spreads to all of our processes. We become what we think and act on: unethical, deceitful, and dishonest from the core outward. We become unreliable, untrustworthy, and unconscionable. We also become teachers, by our examples, that any means justifies the end, and we contribute to the declination of a society that we all resoundingly lament and criticize as being what we’ve become.

Take the time to examine your processes. The good that will come of that – including all the immediate gratification that you’ll have to forego to do things the right way – will be worth it now and in the long run.