No amount of ability is of the slightest avail without honour….. Andrew Carnegie
Good leadership relies on our ability to live our lives with courage, strength of character and honesty. It is harder to do than talk about but without it, leaders can’t thrive for any great length of time regardless of how skilled they may be otherwise.
There have been many prominent leaders who have risen to great heights only to fall with a severe thud because they have acted solely out of self-interest. Sadly and frustratingly, there is a lot of evidence of this lately.
These people have, or are experiencing the consequences of a kind of self-absorption, that assumes that power gives one a certain exemption from behaving responsibly and honestly.
What they seem to have ignored or failed to understand, is that the more powerful we become, the greater is our responsibility to others. And , when leaders go awry of honourable actions, the impact of their behaviour is felt very deeply by people who have had little, if anything, to do with decisions made on their behalf. At these times, honour is offered as a sacrifice to greed and trust is destroyed. Without trust, the chances of building a successful business or generally living a successful life, however you define it, are very poor.
Trust too, is one of those things that often takes a long time to build but only a minute to destroy. As such, it is a thing to be treasured and protected. That’s where strength of character comes in, and where telling the truth and keeping promises become vital.
Okay, so we’re all human and who among us has never told a lie? But, the consequences of deception and lies often have a greater impact than we think when we first venture into the realm of the untruth. It is a lesson that most of us learn eventually.
I think that there is a certain arrogance in believing that the rules of the universe apply to everyone but me. And, believe me, there have been times when I have been very arrogant in that direction… always with a poor result.
Maybe this is what happens to business leaders who come to believe in their own importance to the exclusion of everything else.
Skill and talent can take us only so far. To travel the rest of the way, we must make sure that we bring with us a large measure of honourable intent, concern for the welfare of others and the willingness and courage to do what is right, even when it means giving up something we want very badly. And that’s what makes it so hard.
Here’s Something to Watch: Al Pacino talks about integrity and leadership in Scent of a Woman
Something to think about: When was the last time you had to make a tough choice, when doing the right thing meant you had to give something up? What did you lose? What did you gain? How did it affect your life?