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Be Honest. Be open. Be fearless. Be humble. Be real.

The Human Leader

Be Honest

Over 5 posts, we explore the “Be” statements that comprise the core values of The Human Leader.

We start with Be Honest.

Honesty is the foundational value of The Human Leader.

Not only for the organization, but in my personal life, leadership roles and professional activities. 

Sometimes, when I’m writing these articles, I think, “Of course, that goes without saying. With the notable exception of con artists, everyone has honesty as a value, right?” and “Do I need to write about honesty? People know what honesty is so why not just say that being honest is a core value and move on?”

And yet, I’m writing this anyway. Why? Because while people may agree that honesty is a good trait to have, “Be Honest” is difficult to live out consistently. Also, because I want you to understand how deeply ingrained this is in me and how important it is that everyone involved in The Human Leader, whether a subscriber, contributor, support staff or partner, strives to live the value “Be Honest.”

[shareable cite=”Dr. Jeff Van Meter”]’Be Honest’ is easy to say, but difficult to live out consistently.[/shareable]

In fact, all the core values are easy to say and difficult to live out. We all know people who can look you straight in the face, tell you a bald-faced lie and defend it to the bitter end with seemingly no remorse. But, is there anyone who hasn’t told at least a “white lie?”

Perhaps you’ve never told a deliberate falsehood, but have you ever withheld information or misled someone to avoid a consequence? How did you handle Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy? What about the progress you were making on a project at work? Have you ever used company resources for personal purposes (without permission)?

Please know that I am not here to judge anyone. My point is actually this: if Be Honest means absolute full-blown 100% accuracy in every detail, then we are all in trouble. Fortunately, that is not what I mean by Be Honest, at least not quite.

External Honesty

In this community, Be Honest absolutely means telling the truth and not making things up.  If you are going to be part of this, then you have to tell the truth. Full Stop (as the Queen’s subjects say).

Human Leaders speak truth, even when it’s not easy.  

Human Leaders ask hard questions, even when it is uncomfortable.

Human Leaders don’t avoid conversations because they are going to be painful.

AND, it is more than simply always telling the truth. Sometimes it is about knowing when to be silent.

It is also about compassion. Speaking truth, but with a graciousness for the people you are speaking truth to. Some call this speaking the truth in love. Often as a leader you need to call someone out on their performance or behavior. And sometimes you have to be blunt. A Human Leader, however, tries to be firm and caring at the same time.

I have both seen and experienced, time and time again, that speaking the truth with genuine care for the other person can soften the pain, and ultimately deepen the relationship. Often, after the sting of the rebuke fades, what the person remembers is how you approached them. If the person is healthy, he or she will respect you more because you aren’t afraid to confront and correct, while at the same time you show respect by the manner in which you confront.

In my clinical practice, I have watched as my Practice Director will firmly, yet caringly confront others when they drop the ball.  She tells them clearly and precisely what they did, why it was a problem and then helps the individual determine what needs to change. As a result, our people understand the expectations and they know the target they are aiming for. In addition, there is a growing sense of trust that develops as the person isn’t anxious about whether they are meeting the expectations and requirements of the job.

Internal Honesty

There is another aspect of Be Honest that might be even more important (and more difficult) than what we have discussed so far.

You have to be honest with yourself.

Again, much easier said than done. We humans have seemingly infinite ways of deceiving ourselves. We see this every day when, for example, parents publicly defend their child for a crime where the evidence is overwhelming and uncontested. Or, we tell ourselves that spring is here because it is 60 degrees outside, even though it is February 27th (ok, not a perfect example, but that is the weather in Chicago today).

Psychologists, philosophers, evolutionary biologists, and many others readily acknowledge that we humans are experts at deceiving ourselves and each field of study has a variety of explanations as to why we do this. Fortunately for you, dear reader, it is beyond the scope of this article to discuss all the different theories. Perhaps we will look at theories regarding why we do this at a later date, but for our purpose today, we will treat this as a truth of human nature and accept it at face value (one might say we won’t deceive ourselves about self-deception).

The Human Leader should be continually aware of both the tendency toward self-deception and be desirous of overcoming it (our second core value “Be Open”, is vital in overcoming self-deception and we will look at that in the next post). Not being honest about your “growth edges,” your strengths, and your limits can wreak havoc as a leader, with yourself, your business and your family. And, don’t forget, it’s ok to tell yourself the truth with compassion just like you would with an employee.

Be Honest (internally and externally) is the basis for deeper, long-lasting, successful relationships. And relationships are the key to long-lasting success and happiness.

[reminder]What do you think? When do you find it difficult to be honest with compassion, either with yourself (internal honesty) or others (external honesty)?[/reminder]


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