Posts Tagged ‘righting wrongs’

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…)

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.

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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.

Recent scientific research has revealed that the brain has a special cell – called a “grid cell” – that functions as a global positioning system (GPS), enabling us to continually know where we are in relationship to all the routes we take while physically moving about and storing those as memories that we retrieve when we traverse a route we have already traveled before.

I am not sure I have this neurological GPS grid cell. From my earliest memories, I have been prone to getting lost, not just my first time going some place, but often every time, especially if it’s a place I travel to infrequently. My lack in this area is so pronounced that – and this is rare, but it’s happened enough to give me pause – in the dark, especially, I get turned around in my own house and walk into the wrong room. 

In addition, I’m directionally-challenged. North, south, east, and west are beyond my scope of understanding in real life (I can tell you where they are on a map). If I have to point in a direction, I usually point in the wrong direction. I have to remind myself of my elementary school science that the sun rises in the east and it sets in the west so that twice a day I know where east and west are.

This directional challenge is even worse when I get directions from someone who uses north, south, east, and west as descriptors to explain how to get from point A to point B.

You know just how directionally-challenged you are when you actually prefer a perplexing propensity (probably not unique to northeast Tennessee, but I haven’t run into as much anywhere else in the country as I have here) to use non-existent landmarks and vague measurements with no road names as driving directions that might be less likely to get you lost.

Even when the directions sound like this: “you go down there (pointing in the direction you need to go), and you go past where that big ol’ tobaccer barn useta be, and then you kinda curve around a little, and then you go to the red light, and then you go right, and it’s just a little ways after that.”

So when I bought my first GPS for the car, I was elated.

It was actually very comforting and soothing for me because I tend to panic when I get lost and the fear of the uncertainty of knowing what to do next – if I stay where I am, I’m still lost, but if I move from where I am, then I may get even more lost – has been a permanent fixture of my life since the day I got my driver’s license.

Never again would I have to worry about getting lost again while driving. Because even if I had no clue where I was and where I needed to go, it did and would get me there reliably. I could trust it to navigate me correctly, no matter what.

Quintessential leaders have a similar GPS that doesn’t come pre-programmed, doesn’t depend on satellites hovering above earth’s atmosphere, and doesn’t have to worry about outages because of sunspots or solar flares.

This GPS is developed over time, the product of having an absolute moral foundation of right and wrong, adhering consistently to that absolute moral foundation of right and wrong, and having that adherence become an integral part of who we are and what we do, no matter what.

character gps system quintessential leaderThe quintessential leader’s GPS is character.

Character tells us what our position is no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, no matter who we’re with, no matter what other factors, familiar or unfamiliar, are involved. It ensures that we accurately and consistently navigate life, no matter where life takes us or what life throws at us.

But there’s always a caveat with global positioning systems that we as quintessential leaders need to be aware of, recognize, and resist.

The first time I turned my GPS on in my car, I was driving from my house to an interstate on a route that I could drive with my eyes closed. Almost as soon as I’d pulled out of my driveway, the GPS started telling me to go to a different road and take a different route to the interstate. I vividly remember arguing out loud – and with vigor – with the GPS.

“I’m not going that way. I always go this way. I know you think I ought to do something different, but I’m not going to. Enough already!”

The more I resisted going the way the GPS was telling me to go, the more it talked to me telling me I was not going the way it wanted me to go. And the more loudly I responded to it, trying to drown out the voice, trying to get it to be quiet, trying to convince it that I was right and it was wrong, it seemed the louder and more insistent it got.

Similarly, we have to be aware that we can do the same thing with our character GPS. It will always lead us and guide us the right way, but we have to be aware that we can chose to ignore it or override it or even turn it off. It won’t force us to do the right thing. That’s a choice we have to make. Every time.

Going or doing something the way we always have gone or done it may not be wrong. However, it may also not be the best way. What our character GPS does is make us actively stop and be consciously aware and thinking about that more carefully as that internal voice guides our attitudes, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our actions.

How often do we argue with our character GPS? How often do we rationalize doing something different than what it is telling us to do? How often do we make excuses for not following the directions it’s giving us? How often do we completely ignore it? How often do we just turn it off?

I know we all do at times. I know because I am guilty of having done this and doing this at times. Unfortunately, it seems that is part of being human and the struggle that humans encounter continually. Sometimes we struggle well and succeed. Other times we struggle poorly and we fail.

However, as quintessential leaders, our character global positioning systems should be already very well-developed, with updates being applied as they become available, so that, even though the struggles never go away entirely, we experience them less often and when we do experience them, we succeed much more than we fail.

In conjunction with this on-going development of our character global positioning systems, we will find that we are less apt to argue with, to rationalize around, to make excuses about, to ignore, or to completely turn them off.

Instead, we listen, we pay attention and we follow the route without deviation, without detours, and without exceptions. Every time. All the time.

Developing a character GPS takes commitment. It takes time. It takes a lot of effort. It also, often, means going completely counter to prevailing systems, ideas, methods, social norms, business norms, and life norms.

It’s important to remember that just because everybody else is doing something doesn’t mean everybody else is right.

For quintessential leaders, one of the first things we discover is that, in many cases, everybody else has settled for low standards or no standards. That’s hardly something we’d consider a worthy gauge against which to measure ourselves.

Quintessential leaders must dare to be and to do not only differently than the status quo, but also to replace it with the traits that make up our character global positioning systems: honesty, integrity, consistency, fairness, setting a higher standard, righting wrongs, accountability, sincerity, and setting boundaries.

How are we doing?

The Kindle version of  Building Trust and Being Trustworthy is now available on Amazon. You can purchase it here.

I am a close observer of people who are in leadership positions. I look for quintessential leadership traits in them, as part of who they are as people. I don’t always agree with their positions on things nor do I wholeheartedly support and approve of everything they are associated with.

I strip all that stuff away however when I’m looking at people to determine whether they have quintessential leadership traits or not. Because quintessential leadership traits are what should be important to all of us who are in leadership positions.

So when I write about someone here, I’m pointing out where they do – or don’t – possess quintessential leadership traits. Period. Because that’s what this blog is about.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has proven over time that she has many quintessential Secretary of State Hillary Clintonleadership traits and that she continues to hone those and grow in maturity in them. We can learn a lot from briefly reviewing them.

One quintessential leadership trait that Hillary Clinton has is resiliency. When she first emerged on the national scene during President Bill Clinton’s first presidential run, she made a lot of comments that made her unpopular with older Americans, it seemed. When she emerged as a working First Lady, Hillary Clinton seemed to lose even more popularity. At that time, it seemed that a lot of the American public despised her.

She resoundingly failed to change national public health care, which was the cause she took on in President Clinton’s first term in office, and that failure brought more condemnation and dismissal from a large segment of the population and elected officials. 

During President Clinton’s second term in office, Hillary Clinton endured personal humiliation and condemnation because of President Clinton’s infidelity.

However, because of the quintessential leadership trait of resiliency, Hillary Clinton never quit, and shortly after the second Clinton presidential term, successfully ran for a senate seat to represent New York in Congress.

In 2008, Senator Hillary Clinton ran an unsuccessful primary campaign against Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. It went badly for a lot of reasons and Senator Barack Obama won the nomination.

Once again, Senator Clinton did not quit, and by this time had, through her work in the Senate, shown her knowledge, skill, and ability to be the obvious choice to lead the State Department and easily won confirmation as Secretary of State during President Obama’s first term in office.

It has been in this role as Secretary of State that the other quintessential leadership traits of Secretary Clinton have really come to light.

One of those quintessential leadership traits that Secretary Clinton has shown is a thorough knowledge of her job. While all quintessential leaders will sometimes let things slip through the cracks, even with thorough knowledge, given the opportunity to explain the circumstances and complexity of their work, it becomes clear that, as much as humanly possible, they are on top of everything.

Such is the case with  the Benghazi attack in Libya on September 11, 2012 that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. Secretary Clinton was aware of the danger – generally, not specifically to Ambassador Chris Stevens’ situation in Libya – and was continually and exhaustively dealing with several different countries at the same time in trying to keep everyone out of harm’s way. A cable from Ambassador Stevens requesting more security did not get to Secretary Clinton personally and American lives were lost.

Secretary Clinton’s immediate responses within the State Department and publicly show two other quintessential leadership traits she has.

First, Secretary Clinton took responsibility for the problems that led to the death of four Americans in Libya. She acknowledged, among other things, the procedural problem in the State Department that made this cable from Ambassador Stevens not get bumped up to her attention.

Second, Secretary Clinton took action to right the wrongs that existed by completely accepting and working immediately on making all 24 recommendations for change within the State Department made by an independent report on the Benghazi attack released in December 2012.

Another less-touted and harder-to-accomplish quintessential leadership trait that Secretary Clinton – unlike the majority of her government colleagues – showed was humility. Instead of denying, rejecting, blaming, and refusing to change, Secretary Clinton listened to and took the recommendations of others, even though it meant admitting her own failure. It takes a big person to do that and that is a huge quintessential leadership trait.

After reading through excerpts of the January, 23, 2013 U.S. congressional hearings where Secretary Clinton gave testimony about the Benghazi attacks, it is clear that Secretary Clinton has developed and matured the quintessential leadership traits she has. She was pretty viciously attacked and disrespected by some of those on the congressional side of the hearings, but she didn’t attack back.

Another quintessential leadership trait that came out in the excerpts I read was Secretary Clinton’s ability to stay focused on the big picture – vision. And, perhaps, that is the underlying quintessential leadership trait that has sustained Secretary Clinton during many years on a crazy roller-coaster ride in a very public venue. Secretary Clinton didn’t let all the derailment attempts take over – the “would have, should have, could have” statements that focused on a past she had no control over and couldn’t change. Instead Secretary Clinton focused on the present and the future and how to change and improve things.

And the interesting thing about the congressional attacks of and outright disrespect toward Secretary Clinton and her response was it seems like the only adult – and the only quintessential leader – in the whole bunch that showed up that day was Secretary Clinton.

As not-so-public human beings, it’s very easy to jump in and become part of the peanut gallery and Monday morning quarterbacks. But as quintessential leaders, it’s a good exercise sometimes to put ourselves in the shoes of people like Secretary Clinton and see how many of our quintessential leadership traits would be as obvious and apparent in the same situation and circumstances.

When’s the last time you yelled at an employee in front of someone else? When’s the last time you attacked someone who was pointing out that something you are responsible for needed to change? When’s the last time somebody really made a nasty comment to you and you made a nastier one back to them? When’s the last time you did absolutely everything right with no mistakes?

Being quintessential leaders is a 24/7 job. In fact, it’s not job. It’s who we are and becoming better at being. Everything matters. Let’s never forget that!

If you like what you’re reading here, then check out our store at The Quintessential Leader where you can purchase, for a nominal fee, eBooks about the components of trust and trustworthiness, examples of communicating vision, how to build teams using performance planning, evaluations, and reviews, styles of control that exemplify unquintessential leadership, and unquintessential leadership pitfalls we all need to avoid.

These eBooks are worth far more in experience and the time taken to put them together than they are priced at. You, as a quintessential leader, can’t afford the cost of not having the information they contain.

You have a choice. Save a few dollars and fail to be a quintessential leader, or spend a few dollars and learn what are some of the things quintessential leaders look like – and don’t look like – and what some of the things quintessential leaders do and are – and don’t do and aren’t. This is an investment in yourself and your team.

I don’t have all the answers either. I am learning just like you. But as I learn, I share my knowledge and my experience. That’s how I become a more quintessential leader. I believe in paying forward. What do you do to become a more quintessential leader? How do you pay forward what you’ve learned and experienced?

Whether you buy my eBooks or not is not important. But what you do with what you learn and what your experience has taught, is teaching, and will teach you is.

Think about that. When it’s all said and said, that’s all we’re left with. It’s a legacy. What is your legacy going to look like?