Posts Tagged ‘trustworthy’

John McCain quintessential leader

John McCain, United States Senator from Arizona, died on August 25, 2018, a little more than a year after being diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive, and always fatal, type of brain cancer.

Senator McCain’s life could have been much different then it turned out to be. He grew up in a very elite and privileged world, and one that afforded him the opportunity, if he chose, to live for himself. Senator McCain didn’t do that.


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?


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. He modeled quintessential leadership  in everything he was, he did, and he said.

When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate it as much. Now that I’m older, I appreciate it – and my dad – more and more with each passing day.

My dad’s been gone almost 17 years, but his example and the lessons he taught me about what quintessential leadership is and what it looks like in practice have taken root over the years, with those roots getting more deeply entrenched and stronger with time and practice, and have now begun to blossom and bear fruit in my own life.

I wish my dad were here to see that, although it was hard to tell then, I watched, I listened, I absorbed, and I took everything to heart. His experience, his counsel, and his wisdom have permeated my mind, my conscience, and my life as I’ve tried them, tested them, proved them, and found them to be true.

The older me would tell my dad that he was right (the younger me had a hard time admitting that anyone else was ever right) and would never stop expressing my gratitude and my love. That, for my dad, will have to wait for another day, one that I am looking forward to very much.

In the meantime, though, I have the opportunity to pass the lessons on in developing other quintessential leaders. I don’t claim to have mastered them nor to execute them perfectly. But that is a front-of-my-mind-always goal and nothing I think, say, or do isn’t within the context of that goal. That, my friends, is the first step to becoming a quintessential leader.

One of the ongoing lessons my dad taught me was to show respect to everybody. In my words. In my actions. In every area of my life. I can still hear him saying “Be nice to everyone you meet on the way up, because you’ll meet the same people on your way back down.”

Respect can be a complicated thing for us as people and us as quintessential leaders. It shouldn’t be, as I hope to show, since respect is an outward manifestation of our understanding of the brotherhood of humanity and of the integrity of our character, but it can be until we understand the essence of what respect is.

Respect is not tied to our likes or dislikes, our feelings and emotions, nor to what we agree or disagree about.

Instead, it is an acknowledgement that each of us has the exact same value in terms of our humanness – at our most basic structure, each of us is just a little dirt and a little water mixed together, and when death, the great equalizer, comes that is what we all return to, minus the water – and in terms of our purpose and our potential.

Most of the people in leadership positions today lack respect for anyone else. They may show favoritism to their lackeys as long as they support and help them and push their agendas – which are power, greed, and control – but favoritism is fickle and disappears when lackeys are inconvenient or no longer useful.

Respect is not fickle, nor is it tied to what someone else can do for us. That is simply beyond the grasp of most people in leadership positions today. 

respect quintessential leaderDisrespect is in vogue. It is wrapped up in the forms of tearing others down, name-calling, and put downs. It is characterized by people exposing the “weaknesses” of others, ripping those weaknesses – and those people – to shreds, and then the disrespecters exalting themselves to show how superior and better they are than the lowlifes they just called out.

As shameful and as disgusting as this conduct is, those who do it have no shame and no remorse. In fact, with social media, they’ve found a bigger and more public venue in which to flagrantly disrespect other people. As a result, disrespect has become the norm, while respect is becoming harder and harder to find.

A recent example of this pervasive disrespect – and this is a pattern of behavior with this individual – from someone in a leadership position, but who is not a quintessential leader, brought this back to the forefront of my thinking.

Here are a few excerpts from an email this person in a leadership position wrote to somebody he disagrees with:

“…that you remain a congenital liar incapable of telling the truth.”

“You seem to fail to grasp that you were used as a useful idiot…”

“…you were too stupid to realize that you were being used.”

“I have no time for lying fools whose mission in life is to slander and spread division…”

“Take your vomit somewhere else and don’t waste my time.”

I disagree, for different reasons, with almost all that the recipient of this email says as well. However, I would never communicate with this person – or anyone else on the planet – in a disrespectful manner. The person in a leadership position, though, had absolutely no qualms about it. 

As quintessential leaders, each of is responsible for showing respect to everyone and to modeling that to the quintessential leaders we are developing. Since that’s our responsibility, what does it look like in practice?

Not everybody is going to like everybody else. That’s a fact of life.

My dad, I think, came the closest of anybody I know to liking almost every person he ever met. I can think of two people I know for a fact that he didn’t like, and there may be two others, but he never said one way or the other.

I, on the other hand, have a longer list of people that I don’t care for and would rather not have to be within 300 miles of on any given day (and, frankly, the same is probably true for them with me). It’s not that they are awful people or bad people, but our personalities and temperaments are so different that we just don’t sync up on any kind of tangible level.

Given the choice to spend any kind of extended time with them or face a firing squad, I’d most likely choose the firing squad. Both are excruciating, but one is fast and one-and-done. Social pain is difficult for me, so quick elimination – my own – is generally my preference.

However, whether we are more like my dad and there’s almost nobody we don’t like or we’re more like me and have a pricklier personality and temperament, we still are responsible for being respectful to everybody.

We all have emotions and feelings and sometimes we get hurt, we get angry, and we get sad at what other people do to us and say to us. Disrespecting them – revenge and getting even – is our default response tendency as humans.

But quintessential leaders never forget their responsibility to be respectful and to be reminded that we have also hurt, angered, and saddened other people in our travels through life, and we’ve been shown respect, along with mercy and restraint, at times along the way when we didn’t deserve it. We pay that forward. It’s that simple.

As human beings, it’s often easier to find things we disagree on than things we agree on. That, too, is part of life. Sometimes those disagreements are deep and intense. Sometimes they are so fundamental, moral-wise, character-wise, and principle-wise, that they force a relationship between or among people to break – at least for the rest of this temporary existence of physical life.

However, no matter how strong the disagreement, even to the point of breaking relationships for the remainder of our physical lives, we may have with other people, we are still responsible for showing them respect.

I suspect that when this life is done and the next iteration occurs that we’ll all find that all the things we thought we knew were in fact next to nothing (and that little splinter where there was a minute bit of understanding and insight was more wrong than right) and all that we argued over, disagreed over, and fought over was basically a waste of time because none of us got it right.

If that’s the case, then our responsibility for being respectful to everybody else – even if they disrespect us – should weigh even heavier in who and what we as quintessential leaders are.

So how do quintessential leaders show respect? What does it look like?

  • Never personally attack anyone else. You can disagree and be respectful. You can dislike and be respectful. You can experience negative emotions and feelings and be respectful. You can break a relationship, because it’s the healthiest thing to do, and be respectful.
  • Never tear anyone else down. You are not anyone’s judge and jury. You have never value purpose potential equals respectwalked in their shoes, so whatever you think you know about them is not even close to their whole story. Show mercy.
  • Never badmouth anyone to anyone else. This an emotional response to anger, frustration, and impatience with other people. It says a whole lot more about you as a person than it does about the person you’re badmouthing.
  • Silence can be a form of respect, especially when it comes to anyone that we are hard-pressed to find or see anything positive about. Just because we don’t see it or haven’t found it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Silence ensures that we recognize that everyone has value, even if we don’t know personally what it is. It is often the better part of wisdom.

What would you add to this list of what respect looks like?

More importantly, how are we doing?

quintessential leader foundations matterFoundations matter. Because no matter what kind of foundation we have as the basis for what we build the rest of our lives on, it will be assaulted, sometimes violently, from the day we take our first breaths to the day we take our last ones.

How well we weather the continuous assaults will be determined by the kind of foundation we’re building on.

For the purpose of this discussion, we will not address people who have no foundation they build on, because the outcomes they face are pretty cut and dry.

Instead, we want to look at the types of foundations that people generally build their lives upon. We then will look at how each foundation affects the building process, as well as how much protection each offers from the assaults that come from breathing for a living.

And we’ll see, in the process, which foundation quintessential leaders build their lives on and why that matters.

The three kinds of foundations that people build their lives on are:

  1. Shifting
  2. Unstable
  3. Solid

quintessential-leader-shifting-foundationA shifting foundation is a constantly moving foundation. It literally shifts based on which way the wind blows.

People who build their lives on a shifting foundation are in constant motion as to what they believe, what – and who – they like, what they do, what they think, and how they are.

These people are chameleons. They tend to make all their decisions based on how they feel in the present tense, disregarding or uninterested in facts, reason, and logic.

They are exuberantly and quickly enthusiastic about every “next best thing” that comes their way, jumping headlong into whatever it is, but that completely disappears as soon as a new “next best thing” arrives at their doorstep.

They are constantly jumping from one thing to another physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

People who build their lives on shifting foundations are particularly vulnerable to gimmicks, cons, misinformation (any shade of dishonesty, including spinning, angling, omission, and outright lying), and emotional manipulation.

Because their foundations shift, these people have no core mindset against which to weigh everything that comes at them (discernment) and no filters to block anything out. They tend to be gullible, innately believing everything they hear, often being convinced that something is true when it is not.

These people are the target audience for advertisers and marketers because they react and respond emotionally. Advertisers and marketers use emotional words like “love,” “embrace,” and “care,” as well as pinnacle words like “all,” “best,” and “great.”

Advertisers and marketers also use appealing personal phrases like “you deserve,” “you owe it to yourself,” and “you’ll be happy if…” If you don’t believe me, pay close attention to a few commercials on TV or read a few product descriptions for things being sold online.

And people whose lives are built on shifting foundations fall for it hook, line, and sinker. Every time.

People who are building their lives on a shifting foundation are disastrous when they end up in leadership positions. It is impossible to get straight answers from them and it is impossible to get consistent answers from them.

Because they immediately and enthusiastically jump into every “next best thing,” and jump out just as quickly when the “next best thing” appears, people in leadership positions who have shifting foundations constantly change projects and goals for their teams, often on a dime, leaving their teams in chaos with morale in the toilet.

quintessential leader unstable foundation sinkholeAn unstable foundation is one that looks solid on the surface, but just underneath are major issues, weaknesses, flaws, and problems that make the foundation unstable.

While a shifting foundation is visible to the naked eye, an unstable foundation is not. Only the passing of time and continual pressure will make an unstable foundation evident.

People who are building their lives on unstable foundations are typically very superficial. They are also dishonest with everyone, including themselves. People who are building their lives on unstable foundations are consummate actors and are able to imitate anything flawlessly, often to the point of believing they are the role they are playing.

They seem to, on the surface, embody the ideal in every area of their lives and they seem to be “perfect.” They also tend to attract a lot of followers and admirers because they put on such a good show of being it all and having it all. F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s Jay Gatsby is a literary example of a person whose life was built on an unstable foundation.

People who have built their lives on unstable foundations also tend to need a lot of devotees around them all the time to attest to their skills as first-rate actors. These groupies must be “yes” people, though, and they must never question anything.

Two more hand-in-hand aspects of people who’ve built their lives on unstable foundations are the need to control everything and everybody as well as being expert history revisionists.

People who are building their lives on unstable foundations crack completely – and often suddenly and without warning – under pressure and over time and when they crack, the massiveness of the flaws, the issues, the problems and the weaknesses in their foundation is exposed.

But people who have built their lives on unstable foundations also leave a lot of collateral damage – their followers – when their foundations fail. Nobody comes out unscathed and damages range from total to minor, depending on the proximity of the followers to the people who’ve built on unstable foundations.

When people who are building their lives on unstable foundations are in leadership positions, catastrophic loss is the ultimate outcome. Bernie Madoff, Ivan Boesky, and Richard Whitney are well-known examples of people in leadership positions who built their lives on unstable foundations.

quintessential leader solid foundationSolid foundations are strong, deep, and can withstand the intensity of time, pressure, and scrutiny.

With solid foundations, what you see is what you get. Solid foundations are reliable and they are trustworthy. You can depend on a solid foundation holding up, staying in place, and being consistent, no matter what else happens.

People who are building their lives on solid foundations are people who, first and foremost, have a core mindset and code of absolute integrity and truth against which everything they encounter is measured. Anything that does not meet that standard is rejected.

People who are building their lives on a solid foundation always strive to be objective, knowledgeable, and discerning. They tend to be thinking people who will take the time they need to be fully informed so that they understand the depth and complexities of everything that comes their way.

Because people who’ve built their lives on a solid foundation habitually do this all their lives, they develop the skill of doing this quickly in most situations – and when they need more time, they will tell you and will not be pushed or bullied into a snap decision – because the reality is that while circumstances and characters change over time, the core issues that we humans face in life do not.  

People who are building their lives on a solid foundation are not led by their emotions and feelings, nor do they make decisions based on emotions and feelings. It is not that these people don’t have emotions and feelings, but they don’t rely on them as a standard or a guide for living life.

People who’ve built their lives on a solid foundation have an uncompromising moral code that they apply to everything in their lives. When they see dishonesty, misinformation, spinning, angling, omission from others, they will correct it because they know that other people may be making decisions based on that and lies and erroneous information will lead them to a wrong or bad decision.

This trait doesn’t always make people who are building their lives on a solid foundation the most popular people on the block, especially when they correct these forms of dishonesty with popular people and authority figures.

They become even more unpopular, even with undeniable proof of facts and truth, when they debunk things that people hold near and dear in their beliefs and in their lives and refuse to let go of.

I always wondered why that was the case. It occurred to me recently that we call these kinds of things “sacred cows.” It dawned on me one day not long ago where the reference comes from: the cow that Aaron made for the Israelites when Moses went up the first time to get the 10 Commandments from God.

And then I realized why. Forty-plus years later, after having God literally with the Israelites day (cloud) and night (pillar of fire), Joshua had to tell the 2nd generation out of Egypt to get rid of their foreign gods (among which were some little cow statues, I’m sure) before going into the Promised Land

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

When people who are building their lives on a solid foundation are in leadership positions, you have quintessential leaders.

Unlike the disastrousness and catastrophic loss that people who’ve built their lives on shifting and unstable foundations leave in their wake, quintessential leaders leave a legacy: a team of quintessential leaders who can, in turn, build their own teams of quintessential leaders.

That matters because any entity from you or me to organizations to nations reflects the kind of foundation it has been built on.

Since quintessential leaders develop quintessential leaders, they ensure that everywhere they touch and are in life has the opportunity to build on a solid foundation. Not everyone will take the opportunity. Some are too comfortable with or too afraid to change their shifting and unstable foundations to switch to building on a solid foundation, but those that do will be the next iteration of quintessential leaders.

Foundations matter. What kind of foundation are your life and your beliefs built on? Is it shifting? Is it unstable? Or is it solid?

The answer matters too.