Posts Tagged ‘setting a higher standard’

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…)

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.

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, andchapter 4 discusses fairness, chapter 5 discussesrighting wrongs, chapter 6 discusses accountability, and chapter 7 discusses consistencychapter 8 discusses sincerity, and chapter 9 discusses setting boundaries.

This post, which includes an excerpt from chapter 10, discusses the component of setting a higher standard that builds trust and makes us trustworthy.

Setting a higher standard should be the first thing people in leadership positions do. Before anything else.

While setting a higher standard goes hand-in-hand with setting boundaries, setting a higher standard establishes evidentiary boundaries of character, which affects every area of our conduct. 

These are standards that we adhere to no matter where we are, what we are doing, or who we are with. And they are standards that we expect the members on our teams to adhere to as well.

Let’s look how a lack of setting a higher standard looks in real life. This should have everyone reading this nodding their heads because there is not one of us who hasn’t seen it.

How many times have we seen someone who seems to have a higher standard of conduct when we’re with them and then they deny that by their conduct (words and actions) when they’re not with us?

On social media, perhaps. With other people, perhaps. In different venues than the one(s) we associate them with. 

Now let me ask the harder question. What was our reaction to their lack of a higher standard?

If we shrugged it off, thinking it was no big deal, or if we were invited and joined into to whatever the conduct was, then we have not set a higher standard for ourselves either.

Only you can answer for yourself and only I can answer for myself, but if we have not set a higher standard, then we are not quintessential leaders and we are destroying trust and not being trustworthy.

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 10: The Setting A Higher Standard Component of Trust and Trustworthiness”

I’ve thought deeply about this component for quite some time as I’ve, over the course of the last few years, observed in almost every area of life – families, politics, education, religion, military, business, society, and in many individual lives, not only the absence of a higher standard of performance and conduct, but increasingly, no-standard of performance and conduct.

It seems that the “anything goes” philosophy has become the norm in the world.

It has, because of the most recent US presidential election, a very thought-provoking article entitled “General Failure,” in the November 2012 issue of The Atlantic – which was written well before the revelation of General David Patraeus’s adultery with his biographer and the possible adultery of General John R. Allen with Jill Kelly – and finally the resignation of General Patraeus from being CIA director, come back full-force into my line of vision.

This kind of behavior (all the parties know each other and are closely linked to each other) among the powerful in Washington, DC, based on what I’ve read and heard about it, is not only commonplace, but is seen as acceptable. 

The initial reactions from people in leadership positions – Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), for example, who implied that General Patraeus should not have resigned because he committed adultery – made it evident that not only are people in leadership positions not setting a higher standard for performance and conduct, but there is, in fact, no standard.

It seems to me that before we talk about setting higher standards in terms of performance and conduct, we need to talk about adultery and why it falls into the higher standard category on a personal and leadership level.

Marriage vows are taken based on the trust of two people in each other. By their very nature, they create a trust relationship.

By entering a marriage covenant, both parties are setting, demanding, and promising to adhere to a higher standard of conduct. When either party to those vows, which are made traditionally before God and people, breaks them, that person breaks the trust relationship.

Frankly, if a spouse shows untrustworthiness and destroys the trust in his or her closest personal relationship in life, then he or she is untrustworthy and destroys trust in every part of his or her life.”

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, chapter 5 discusses righting wrongs, chapter 6 discusses accountability, and chapter 7 discusses consistency, and chapter 8 discusses sincerity.

This post, which includes an excerpt from chapter 9, discusses the component of setting boundaries that builds trust and makes us trustworthy.

Setting boundaries is not a negative thing. In fact, what it does is create a framework within which we operate and the things and people entrusted to us operate. 

Everyone knows what the framework is and the consequences for operating outside the framework because we consistently and fairly enforce the consequences when the framework is breached.

Why is a framework important? Shouldn’t everybody and everything be able to do whatever they want and however they want without any limitations?

Let me ask you this. Would you live in a house or work in a building that had not been framed before it was built?

Frameworks give a solid foundation, a sturdy structure, and a clearly-defined border, within which there is a lot of room for individual creativity, innovation, and expression.

Without frameworks, however, there is no stability and constant danger of collapse with injuries or fatalities.

We seldom see people in leadership positions who not only don’t set boundaries, but don’t know how to. As a result, everything is a free-for-all and the results are destructive and devastating.

And when the destruction and devastation hits, trust and trustworthiness are extinguished forever.

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.

olive-horizontal-line

Excerpt from”Chapter 9: The Setting Boundaries Component of Trust and Trustworthiness”

A lack of sincerity has been painfully and increasingly evident in business, political, educational, civil, and religious leadership for quite some time, and it’s becoming the norm instead of the exception.

While sincerity is very closely aligned with honestychange link here to chapter 3 excerpt link: integrity, and authenticity, it is still a distinct component from these other quintessential leadership traits.

Sincerity, put simply, is the opposite of hypocrisy. But we need to define both of those words to see why.

Hypocrisy, in its simplest definition, is a person pretending to be, do, or believe something he or she isn’t, doesn’t do, or doesn’t believe. The Greek root of this word means “play-acting.” In other words, a hypocrite is faking it or perpetuating fraud.

Sincerity, on the other hand, defines a person who actually is, does, and believes everything he or she appears to be, does, and says he or she believes. In other words, a sincere person is “for real,” genuine, and free of pretense and deceit.

Sincerity, then, is a quintessential leader trait and another key component of building trust and being trustworthy.

What sets the component of sincerity apart from honesty, integrity, and authenticity, although, again it is closely related to all of these, is that it indicates a person’s motives or motivations.

This is another aspect of character – a heart issue. The other side of the coin, hypocrisy, also speaks to motives, motivations, and character.

Nowhere recently have we seen hypocrisy abound and sincerity questioned than in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which left a wide and extensive swath of devastation when it merged with two other storms to form a super-storm over the northeast United States on October 29-30, 2012.

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.