Dishonesty is not new, but let’s be honest—our society has raised the rationalization of dishonesty to an art form. When it comes to the truth, we embellish, expand, enrich, soften, shave, stretch, and withhold. We misspeak, pretend, bend, and improve. We are guilty of mistakes, misjudgment, and truthful hyperbole. We exaggerate, spin, filter, and inflate. However, we rarely—or perhaps even never—believe that we are guilty of dishonesty.
What’s not to like? Millions of like-minded people promoting limited federal government, individual freedoms, personal responsibility, free markets, and a return of political power to the states and the people. How could anyone argue that the Tea Party is a bad thing? Oh wait! That can’t be right. The Tea Party is actually millions of small-minded people who engage in racist behaviors and want to take away the power of the federal government to set policy and help society by cutting the funding to every social program that they don’t like. So which is it? The answer is, “It depends on your point of view.”
When I think of a “philanthropist,” I see someone like Bono, Oprah, or Bill Gates. I imagine that they wake up in the morning thinking about opportunities to influence the world for their cause. I, on the other hand, have a mortgage. I would like to spend my day tackling huge social and economic problems, but I have holes in my calendar that must be filled to pay my bills.
The trials of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and disgraced self-help guru James Arthur Ray both ended in guilty verdicts. Blagojevich was found guilty on 17 of 20 counts of corruption. Ray was found guilty of three counts of negligent homicide from deaths in a sweat lodge ceremony. And though some would argue that the verdicts in both cases were never in doubt, the results could have gone either way. Here are three lessons leaders can learn from these two seemingly unrelated cases:
Seventeen days can make a tremendous difference. The date was May 25, 2011. The Dallas Mavericks became the National Basketball Association’s Western Conference Champions for only the second time in its thirty-one year history. The 17,000-plus fans were anxious for a celebration. The team held up the trophy, smiled, posed for the obligatory photo-op, and then exited the arena – leaving ESPN reporter Doris Burke looking for someone to interview.
Let the debating begin. Congressman Anthony Weiner’s revelation that he exercised terrible judgment by Tweeting an inappropriate photo to a woman he had met on line raises scores of questions for leaders. It is certain to dominate the news cycle until one of three things happens:
Right now – as you are reading this sentence – 70 percent of your staff are alienating your customers, keeping you from achieving your goals, or costing your company money that could be used for more productive uses. Scary, huh?
Values – every company hangs them on the wall and distributes them on wallet cards. It is the same for individuals. Ask ten of your friends to list their values, and at least eighty percent will use words like respect, integrity, and honesty. So how important are your values? Will you sacrifice them for the results and outcomes you desire? Are they so important that you would lay down your life – figuratively or literally – to protect them?
The core of every noncommissioned officer’s commitment is articulated in the NCO Creed. It defines how each member of the NCO Corps views his or her responsibility as a leader. And, there is no better model for your success.
There are a lot of factors that could contribute to your lack of results – time, talent, resources – but for most of us the difference between excellence and mediocrity comes down to accountability. Accountability requires courage: Courage to tell and value the truth. Courage to remain keenly focused on results that matter, and courage to be relentless and unwavering as we look at contribution and behavior. The failure to stem a crisis of accountability places us on the path to mediocrity and worse – irrelevance.