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Guest Blog – Leaders Should Maintain Honesty and Confidentiality

My friend and colleague Phil Van Hooser has a new book out this week called Leaders Ought to Know: 11 Ground Rules for Common Sense Leadership. As a way to introduce you to his book as well as his expertise in leadership, Phil has offered the following guest blog. In my opinion this is a great example of how to do leadership well. Enjoy.

Honesty builds respect; respect builds trust — leaders ought to know that, but sometimes it’s hard for leaders to maintain honesty and confidentiality.

Leaders Ought to Know Maintain Honesty and Confidentiality

Casey is a front line supervisor. During a weekly supervisory meeting, Casey’s department manager announced a plan to transfer one of the team’s newest members to another division. The affected employee was unaware of the transfer decision. The supervisors were cautioned about maintaining confidentiality. The manager wanted to meet with the affected employee before the news became public.

Less than an hour after the meeting, out of the blue Casey was approached by the employee in question. “Do you know anything about me being transferred?” he asked. “No, I don’t know anything about that,” Casey responded before walking away.

Moments later Casey returned to the employee with this startling revelation. “I lied to you a few minutes ago. You asked what I knew about a transfer and I said I knew nothing. The truth is that subject was discussed during a meeting I was in this morning. Unfortunately, I’m not at liberty to share details — your manager will do that — but I wanted to be honest with you.”

The surprised employee responded, “Thanks. I appreciate your honesty.”

Casey voluntarily shared this very personal leadership experience with me. His admission sparked a wonderful discussion. We marveled at how easy it is for leaders to play loose with the truth—and how often it happens in organizations. We also agreed that leaders often disregard the impact such dishonesty can have on their reputations.

The Honesty Game

Leaders Ought to Know Ground Rule #5: “Leaders don’t play loose with the truth; Leaders lead from a position of unquestioned honesty.” (Excerpted from Leaders Ought to Know: 11 Ground Rules for Common Sense Leadership, John Wiley & Sons, releasing April 22, 2013.)

Thankfully, the most considerate leaders fully understand that honesty builds respect; respect builds trust; and trust builds leadership reputations. But the converse is also true. Dishonesty (including those harmless little “white lies”) undercuts respect; unearned respect erodes trust; and eroding trust destroys leadership reputations. Simply put, Leaders Ought To Know the honesty game is one conscientious leaders cannot afford to lose.

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