continued from Five Most Important Leadership Traits
People want to follow an honest leader. Years ago, many employees started out by assuming that their leadership was honest simply because the authority of their position. With modern scandals, this is no longer true.
When you start a leadership position, you need to assume that people will think you are a little dishonest. In order to be seen as an honest individual, you will have to go out of your way to display honesty. People will not assume you are honest simply because you have never been caught lying.
One of the most frequent places where leaders miss an opportunity to display honesty is in handling mistakes. Much of a leader’s job is to try new things and refine the ideas that don’t work. However, many leaders want to avoid failure to the extent that they don’t admit when something did not work.
After spending a considerable amount of money on a satellite location, it became clear that the cost structure would not support a separate smaller office. As the construction completed on the expanded headquarters building, the smaller office was closed. This was good decision making. The smaller offices seemed like a good idea, but when the advantages didn’t materialize (due to poor management or incorrect assumptions) it made sense to abandon the model. This was a chance for the leadership to display honesty with the employees, be candid about why things didn’t work out as expected, learn from the mistakes an move on.
Unfortunately in this situation the leadership told employees that they had planned on closing the satellite location all along and it was just a temporary measure until construction was completed on the larger headquarters building. While this wasn’t necessarily true, it didn’t quite cross over into the area of lying. Within a few months the situation was mostly forgotten and everyone moved on. Few of the employees felt that leadership was being dishonest. However, they had passed up a marvelous opportunity to display the trait of honesty in admitting a mistake.
Opportunities to display honesty on a large scale may not happen every day. As a leader, showing people that you are honest even when it means admitting to a mistake, displays a key trait that people are looking for in their leaders. By demonstrating honesty with yourself, with your organization and with outside organizations, you will increase your leadership influence. People will trust someone who actively displays honesty–not just as an honest individual, but as someone who is worth following.