Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise (sic) to deceive!
–Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto vi, Stanza 17.
Scottish author and novelist (1771-1832)
Here I present my fourth installment on Leadership. “Honesty is the best policy” is not just a great quotation (which, by the way is at least 2,500 years old and was recently rated as the most familiar wisdom cliches among children) but is also the absolute truth. Additionally, in leadership, it is indispensable. Very few qualities are as important for a leader to possess than that of total honesty with his workers. No matter if things are going well or poorly, keeping the truth from the workers will, when the truth finally does surface–and it surely will, cause the workers to become unreliable and it will cause a nearly irreparable breach of trust.
As I’ve stated before, before working at Carr Lane Middle School in the St. Louis Public Schools, I worked in retail sales for Radio Shack. During the most recent time that I worked there, the store, and in fact the whole mall where the store was located, experienced a huge sales loss over previous years. It could have been possible for the manager to hide that fact from us workers in an attempt to keep our optimism in tact and keep us selling hard. However, the way the company’s intranet is set up, it would have also been very easy for us to find the accurate information on the sales statistics. If he had employed deceit to try to get us to work harder and we would have subsequently discovered the truth, he would have lost the respect of the entire store’s workforce and been rendered completely ineffective in his leadership.
History (including recent history) is plagued with instances where those in leadership and those with influence have spread dishonest information. At the end of the day, however, they were found to be lying and quickly lost their position and respect. This applies to politicians, business leaders, school leaders, teachers, leaders of student groups and even leaders of families.
Make it habit now to practice honesty. Even if you’re not in leadership now, maybe you will be someday. If you have practiced dishonesty in the little things now (i.e. “My dog ate my homework”; “I finished it but left it at home”) then it will become a habit that you will carry with your throughout life.