The Value Of Honesty Cannot Be Understated

Honesty is not just a nice-to-have trait for leaders; it is a must-have.

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“A massive betrayal” 

Matt Hancock has come out against the leaking of his WhatsApp messages. He says he is “hugely disappointed” in his ghost writer for releasing the texts to the general public. Anyone with a moral compass will know the real betrayal is the shocking way in which Hancock spoke about the public in these messages from the pandemic, calling teachers and doctors lazy and work-shy.

As a leader during a tough time, it might feel like the right thing to do is keep your cards close to your chest, feigning that everything is okay when in reality it is spiralling out of control. It is hard for all of us to admit when we’ve got it wrong, but when our leaders do it, it is a sign of integrity and strength. When things are tough, you need your people to believe in you and believe in your purpose; this is impossible without honesty.

At its core, honesty is about being truthful and transparent in all your actions, words, and decisions. It is the foundation of trust; the glue that holds relationships together, whether in personal or professional settings. When leaders prioritize honesty, they help create an environment that fosters collaboration, loyalty, and innovation. People feel safe to speak up, share their ideas, and take risks, knowing that their leaders have their best interests at heart.

Moreover, honesty is essential for ethical decision-making, which is critical for sustainable success. Leaders who prioritize honesty do not compromise on their values. They especially don’t jeopardise their ethics to achieve short-term gains. Honesty is not just a nice-to-have trait for leaders; it is a must-have.

Leadership without honesty cannot be considered true leadership.

Just consider Elizabeth Holmes. Her company, Theranos, claimed to have developed a revolutionary technology that could test for various diseases with just a small amount of blood, a technology that would change the way blood testing was done in the healthcare industry. Her meteoric rise to become one of the youngest self-made female billionaires in the world was followed by a rapid and shocking fall.

In 2018, she was accused of deceiving investors, business partners, and patients about the capabilities of the technology and the accuracy of the test results. The company’s testing practices were also found to have violated federal regulations, leading to the suspension of its laboratory operations and the recall of tens of thousands of blood samples. For her crimes she faces up to 20 years in prison.

This gross error in judgement is surely one of the worst cases of a dishonest leader, but clearly showcases what happens when integrity is not a core value.

In the case of Matt Hancock, we can only begin to imagine what might snowball from this leak in the coming weeks. Any credibility he had has been undermined, and he is sure to take the reputations of several MPs with him.

In today’s rapidly changing and complex world, leaders must be transparent and honest about their goals, values, and challenges. They need to communicate honestly with their teams, customers, and stakeholders, even when the news is not good. Honesty and transparency build a culture of credibility and integrity, without which any business or organisation cannot hope to succeed.

5 tips for being an A player:

  • Communicate openly
  • Be prepared to have the difficult conversations
  • Take accountability for you and your people
  • Own up to failures  
  • Show care when others have got it wrong

Thought for the week  

Good leaders create followers. Great leaders create leaders.

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