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Honesty is the Best Leadership Policy

Updated: Jan 4

“No legacy is so rich as honesty”
– William Shakespeare

The High Price of Dishonesty

In the early morning of June 17th, 1972, the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office complex was broken into and the scandalous conspiracy in Washington D.C. began to take on a life all its own.

As the Watergate scandal grew President Richard Nixon was rapidly losing his political support. The President finally resigned his office on August 9th, 1974. He would have most likely faced impeachment hearings and subsequently been removed from office had he not resigned. Vice President Gerald Ford assumed the Presidency and eventually issued the former President a most controversial pardon. The entire scandal destroyed the trust of the nation.

The Result of Dishonesty in Leadership

Michael Hardy writes, “But did it have lasting effects? The fact that the suffix “-gate” became shorthand for any scandal involving deception at high levels of power is one of many signs that Watergate rocked America. Ronald Reagan’s Iran-gate, Bill Clinton’s Monica-gate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s bridge-gate are just a few examples.”

“It also redefined government’s relationship with media. As Federal Times Editor Jill Aitoro wrote in a November column, “a certain naiveté about politics was lost among Americans, a newfound appreciation of investigative journalism emerged, and government realized that press might not be so easily contained.” (1)

Commenting on character Anthony Harrigan said, “The role of character always has been the key factor in the rise and fall of nations. And one can be sure that America is no exception to this rule of history. We won’t survive as a country because we are smarter or more sophisticated but because we are, we hope-stronger inwardly. In short, character is the only effective bulwark against internal and external forces that lead to a country’s disintegration or collapse.” (2)

The need for leaders to be trustworthy cannot be overstated. A leaders’ influence is measured by the level of trust people have in them. Broken trust leads to instability and cynicism within an organization or an entire nation as we have seen.

Open a Trust Account

Think of relationships (personal or business) as a bank account, leaders are either making deposits or withdrawals based on their character and performance. Like a bank account, we can only sustain a certain number of withdrawals before the account is closed.

Without honesty, people cannot trust you, if your people cannot trust you, they will not follow you, even if they must work with you. The trust of others must be earned by an investment in transparency.

Leadership is Built on Trust

Trust is earned through long patient investments over time and can be irreparably damaged in a single day. Your life as a leader is lived out in a fishbowl, people are watching you all the time. Inconsistencies in actions and speech carry serious consequences, that place the trust of your people in jeopardy.

Be Who You Are Wherever You Are

I’m all for emulating the most admirable traits of influential people, just don’t become a copy, you’re an original. If you live a principled life at home don’t change on the road to make an impression. Successful people are consistent in character.

Be Honest All the Time

To be honest all the time requires you be truthful with yourself first since you’re with yourself 24/7. Honesty is the greatest asset an organization possesses. It’s simple, if people can’t trust you, they won’t do business with you.

People Are Watching You – Count On It

For better or worse your reputation precedes you. People scrutinize every step a leader takes and each decision they make. Always conduct yourself in a manner consistent with your convictions and understand that everything you do is magnified, the good and the bad.

(1) “Watergate scandal: Public distrust of government begins” By: Michael Hardy December 1, 2015

(2) Anthony Harrigan (1925-2010) served as President of the United States Business and Industrial Council and the United States Industrial Council Educational Foundation during the 1980s.

If you are interested in being a life long learner and a more effective leader, I would highly recommend you joining one of our Lions Club programs. Many of the items discussed in our weekly articles are part of this programs curriculum. You can learn more below.

Lions Club Virtual Coach™ – Click HERE Lions Club Mastermind™ – Click HERE

*** This article was authored by John Picarello, Chief Leadership Officer at Lions Pride Leadership Co.***

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