There have been hundreds of thousands of books and blogs written on the subject of how to be a better leader.
And yet the media is flooded with example after example of poor leaders who lack the single most important characteristic of any leader … self-honesty.
When I look back at my career as a leader, I periodically would examine the impact my leadership was having on my people and my business. At times I didn’t like what I saw. It took a bit of soul-searching and self-honesty to see that I was the cause of some of the problem and I needed to change. If I couldn’t honestly see the impact my actions were having on others, how in the world could I be a part of the solution? I wish I could say that I always saw myself objectively but that would be a bold-faced lie.
Sometimes you need the honest and direct feedback of others to see yourself. Other times it starts with your willingness to look at yourself and ask a few pointed questions. Here is a list of 10 questions that can help you get started:
10 Questions To Check Your Self-Honesty:
- Do I shade the truth in order to conceal the truth (includes omission)?
- Is my leadership about developing my people or about me (my next promotion, my bonus, my security, etc.)?
- Do I tell people things they want to hear or the things they need to hear (even when it is hard)?
- Am I coasting or growing as a leader (“If you’re coasting you’re probably going downhill” – Mike Rayburn)?
- Am I burned out and need to change jobs/careers, but I can’t (family obligations, golden handcuffs, etc)?
- Do I know my limitations (pitfalls, areas of weakness, blind spots, etc.)?
- Do I justify my thoughts, beliefs, and action internally and am afraid to share them externally for fear of being judged?
- Do I use my people to get my own needs met (self-esteem, sense of power, needing to be needed, wanting to be liked, etc.)
- Is there any damaged relationships I’ve helped to create that getting honest with myself and others would clear up?
- Am I still being called to be a leader?
The long term effects of self-dishonesty are especially dangerous to leaders? Why? Because everything that you hide eventually comes out in one way, shape, or form. It is like driving and letting go of the steering wheel … you don’t crash immediately … you crash eventually. It is a universal law called The Law of Compensation or The Law of Cause and Effect.
Here’s just one way the Law of Compensation will materialize: If you can’t be honest with yourself, you won’t be honest with others, which means you won’t be trusted. If you can’t be trusted you won’t be respected and leaders who have neither trust nor respect are eventually left. They are left outside the door (fired, let go, axed, etc.) or their very best people leave them because people don’t follow or stay with leaders they do not trust!
In the end you can take the high road or you can take the low road. You can justify that everyone shades the truth. You can say most people at any given time lie to themselves and to others. And yet I think you will find the goal you attempted to achieve by dishonesty will become unattainable … whether you want to succeed as a leader or be the president of the United States Of America
I think Robert Frost said it best, “Two roads diverged in the woods … and I took the road less traveled by and that has made all the difference.”
Which road are you traveling on?