In a time when everything is someone else’s fault and serious wrongdoing often goes unpunished, it often seems as though we’ve lost all sight of what it means to be a business person of character and integrity. Every day, from community leaders to elected officials, from clergy to corporate executives, it seems like we hear about a major character lapse from someone so trusted by the public that they definitely should have known better. These are leadership leaks. They rob leadership of its power and moral authority in the same way that a pressure leak can rob an engine of its motive force. Each and every day we are faced with easy choices that may lead us down the wrong path, but real leaders know that we have to rise above the temptation to cut ethical corners and take the easy way out.
It can be a cold, hard world for those who strive to always do the right thing no matter the circumstances and despite questionable opportunities for personal gain. Never fear; here are three ways to achieve leakproof leadership, to stay above the fray, and to keep your character and integrity in shape.
Responsibility: Peter Drucker said, “Leadership is not magnetic personality. It is not making friends and influencing people. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights and raising performance to a higher standard.” Yet with every violation of trust, those in the perpetrator’s chain of command continue to circumvent and pass the buck, saying “There are no rogue operators on my team!” Just because you don’t know, or you turn a blind eye, does not absolve you. You cannot dodge responsibility. Doing so only shows that you are truly unfit for leadership.
If you take the position, the title, the power, the prestige, and the salary then you have to take the responsibility too. And that means that everything, to include things that were in motion before you got into the seat, and things you didn’t even know were—and are—going on, are yours and yours alone to deal with.
Respect: Elbert Hubbard said, “If you work for a man, in heaven’s name work for him! If he pays you wages that supply you your bread and butter, work for him, speak well of him, think well of him, stand by him and stand by the institution he represents. I think if I worked for a man I would work for him.”
There’s an old adage that says a wise traveler never despises his own country. There is no shortage of organizations that seem to operate according to their own rules, organizations that do things that we might even think of as unsavory or unfair. If you work for one of these and you draw a paycheck, then work as hard as possible to uphold their standards, even if your own boss doesn’t. No one can make you do anything illegal, immoral or unethical. If your employer tries to make you do such things, seek employment elsewhere and use the chain of command to bring the issue to the attention of others. To respond in kind to such behavior is unacceptable. Two wrongs never make a right.
Reading: Jim Rohn said, "The book you don't read won't help." Let’s face it, you are what you read. If you are not reading books that help you grow and realize your own personal convictions and develop your courage, you are wasting your time. What a person has on the bookshelf is a far better indicator of what’s really going on inside their head than any polygraph could ever be. You can lie through your teeth and no one will ever suspect a thing, but your actions—and your reading—will eventually reflect exactly what is going on at the core of your character.
Many of us read only what helps us with the mechanics of our jobs. While knowing how is definitely a key to success, knowing why is the only way to achieve true greatness. Knowing why is the crowning benefit of reading books by those who went before us, those who excelled in their lives and careers without compromising their character. All leaders are readers. If you’re not reading you’re not leading. It’s as simple as that.
A solid ethical foundation is equally essential at work and at home. The bottom line is that only commitment can ensure compliance. No amount of non-disclosure agreements, background checks, or polygraphs can do that. If your character isn’t totally squared away to the point that you are ready to fall on your sword to protect what is moral, ethical, and legal, then you’d better not accept one iota of responsibility. Leakproof leadership is choosing your thoughts and actions based upon your values and not upon personal gain. Your convictions mirror your character. So take a good look at yourself in the mirror to make sure you are fit to report for leadership duty!
Tracey Jones is a U.S. Air Force veteran, entrepreneur, speaker and publisher. She speaks to audiences across the nation on leadership, accountability, business success, and other topics. Her latest book is “Beyond Tremendous: Raising the Bar on Life.” To learn more visit www.TremendousTracey.com.