Posts Tagged ‘trust’

United States National CemetaryToday, May 29, 2017, is Memorial Day in the United States. Designated a national holiday in 1971, most Americans probably don’t see Memorial Day as much more than the beginning of summer and don’t know the roots of how this annual day of commemorating those who’ve died in military service to this country originated. (more…)

Adolf Hitler 1930's Nazi GermanyWe the peeps are strange, as Jim Morrison and the Doors observed in one of the band’s less enigmatic songs.

On the one hand, we have a great potential and capacity for intellect, logic, reason, and critical thinking, all of which can give us the ability to be objective, to think well, and to make sound decisions.

Yet, on the other hand, we overwhelmingly have the propensity to be absolutely slaves to our emotions, all of which are subjective, biased, seldom based on anything more than the feeling of the moment, and which completely derail that other side of us that should always be engaged and also always be the leader in the final outcome of what we say and do or where we go next. (more…)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.As today – January 16, 2017 – marks the United States’ federal observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday (Dr. King’s actual birth date was January 15, 1929), it is a good time to review some of the quintessential leadership traits that Dr. King possessed and that we should be looking for and developing in our own quintessential leadership journeys. (more…)

Dr. Ned M. RossThe first – and one of less than a handful of people whose lives have intersected with mine in which I’ve seen an unwavering commitment to quintessential leadership – quintessential leader in my life was my dad, Dr. Ned Moses Ross. He modeled quintessential leadership  in everything he was, he did, and he said. (more…)

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?

 

Leaders Must Have Ethics and Morals - Strength Alone is Not EnoughIt seems to me that the term “leader” has now begun to ring hollow because it’s applied to anybody and everybody in the world who emerges in the top tier of the heap of any social, religious, academic, governmental, or organizational structure, regardless of how they got there.

The reality is that how they got to the top of the heap matters. A lot. Just because people end up in the top tier of any of these venues does not automatically mean they are leaders. Anymore, it often means just the opposite.

Why?

Because how people get to the top of the heap shows the kind of ethical-moral foundation they have. Or don’t have.

While we seem to routinely disconnect how people behave from their intellect, knowledge, and skills, we do ourselves a huge disservice when we don’t consider the whole person, especially when they’re begging us to unconditionally (which, by the way, is unquintessential leadership) follow them.

The presence or absence of an ethical-moral foundation in a person is directly proportional to whether they build trust and are trustworthy or they destroy trust and are not trustworthy.

The reality is that there is very little trust and trustworthiness in the world today. Time and again, most of us prove, often in what we believe are “little things,” that we cannot be trusted and we are not trustworthy. 

Little things,” it turns out, are symptomatic of big things and those big things show whether we have an ethical-moral foundation or not. How is this translated practically? In a word, character. Character embodies these elements: who we are, what we are, our motives, our attitudes, our thoughts, our words, and our actions.

If one or more of those elements doesn’t sync up with the rest, or what we claim to be, then we have a problem with our ethical-moral foundation and we are deficient in character.

There are certain external behaviors that reveal more than others whether we have an ethical-moral foundation. They are:

  1. A pattern of questionable and surreptitious actions that have built-in plausible deniability;
  2. A history of deflecting responsibility and/or changing the subject (avoiding the subject altogether) when confronted with substantiated actions and words;
  3. A prevailing sense of anger and outrage each time these kinds of actions and words occur and we are called on it;
  4. A history of twisting, spinning, angling, deception, and dishonesty that threads through our entire lives;
  5. An overarching pride and arrogance that literally oozes from our pores continually;
  6. An inability to ever admit we are wrong, we’ve done something wrong, and we need to make amends and change those wrongs in a demonstrable way.

I am very rarely completely on the same page as New York Times columnist David Brooks (I find him to be myopic, elitist, and without an objective view of the big picture most of the time, and that leads him to conclusions that are generally lopsided and not entirely accurate), but in his April 28, 2015 op-ed piece, “Goodness and Power,” Brooks nails the integrated relationship between quintessential leadership and an ethical-moral foundation.

Hillary Clinton Dishonest and UntrustworthyBrooks began the piece with the results of a Quinnipiac Poll that showed that 60% of independent voters rated Hillary Clinton as a strong leader. But 61% of those same voters said that Hillary Clinton is not honest and is not trustworthy (here’s the disconnect I referred to before between behavior and intellect, knowledge, and skills).

Then Brooks moves out to the long view that the real ability to lead is directly tied to honesty and trustworthiness by asking the right question: “Can you be a bad person but a strong leader?”

As those of us who are striving to be quintessential leaders know already, the answer is “no.” To paraphrase Brooks, putting “…someone with bad private morals [in a leadership position] is like setting off on a battleship with awesome guns and a rotting hull. There’s a good chance you’re going to sink before the voyage is over.”

Why?

As Brooks notes, people who have no ethical-moral foundation are Machiavellian in their behavior and the end always justifies the means, and in the end what we get is not leadership, but tyranny and despotism.

The lust for power and control is the driving force behind these unquintessential leaders. The dishonesty is that they obscure their real motives with platitudes that sound like they are selfless, sacrificing, giving, and doing this for the good of the people that they actually want power over and want to control.

And here’s the proof. They’ll talk a good talk until they get what they want, but there are always shadows of impropriety, of shadiness, of manipulation, and of deception hanging around them. Nobody trusts them, even if they manage to get a leadership position.

Once they do get a leadership position, these unquintessential leaders reveal their total lack of an ethical-moral foundation in everything they are, they say, and they do.

What does that look like in practice? As we strive to become quintessential leaders, we must be able to not only know what quintessential leadership looks like, but also what it doesn’t look like and we need to make sure we’re always monitoring ourselves to make sure we’re on the right path and haven’t veered off onto the wrong one.

When people without an ethical-moral foundation get into leadership positions, these are the tell-tale signs:

  • Tightened control over everything and everyone (it will be loose during their campaign to be in charge and promises of egalitarianism will abound)
  • A closed inner circle that is an existing network and that is severely limited with very specific criteria so that only those who are already in it can meet them
  • All-or-nothing demands for loyalty and allegiance
  • Big Brother Lack of Ethical-Moral FoundationConstrictive and restrictive rules and regulations
  • Continual threats of retribution and adverse actions if rules and regulations are believed to be broken
  • Constant assertion of authority and superiority to everyone else
  • Constant devaluing of others in attempts to promote and enhance their own value
  • Mistrust and suspicion of everyone else

Look around in your life and see if this looks familiar. It does in my life, because, unfortunately, this is the general tenor of the kind of people in leadership positions in every area of our lives.

It’s become acceptable to not have an ethical-moral foundation and be in a leadership position. Not only is it acceptable, but it is, indeed, preferred.

But as we strive to become quintessential leaders, we can’t just follow the crowd. We can’t use the excuse that everybody else is doing it. We can’t allow ourselves, even if it means we end up being the only person on the planet doing the right thing because we have and we hold on to the right foundation, to ever lose sight of what makes us quintessential leaders.

We are rare for a reason. But there are people, those whom we serve on every team in our lives, who count on the rarity of us having, continuing to fortify, and adhering to an unshakeable ethical-moral foundation.

How are we doing?