I recently started watching the police drama, The Shield. If you’re familiar with the show, you know that the main character, Detective Vic Mackey, is a master at spinning webs. He’s constantly plotting, scheming, scamming, manipulating, deceiving, and lying. He has so many lies circulating it’s a wonder he can keep track of them all.
Frankly, I’m addicted to it. I love that show.
One of the endlessly fascinating parts is that no matter what kind of jam Vic and his team gets in to, they continue to lie, thinking the new lies can fix the old ones. While they typically find some temporary breathing room, they’re sinking deeper and deeper into their own pathology. Despite what he himself may think, Vic Mackey isn’t much of a leader.
So, who cares? It’s just a TV show.
Yep, it’s television. But the overarching issue is the same: We real-life people have to address the issue of honesty on a daily basis, with real, non-Hollywood consequences.
How well do we do with it?
In real life, lives are destroyed, families broken, companies decimated, and groups disbanded, driven by the lies we tell each other and the ones we tell ourselves. Think Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, and Global Crossing. Or Jimmy Swaggart, and Jim and Tammy Bakker. How about Richard Nixon and a multitude of local and national politicians?
How many of us put our trust in the empty promises—the bald-faced lies—of the people in our society who are supposed to be guiding us? How many of us lost our life savings, lost our possessions, lost our relationships because of the dishonesty of others?
Now look closer to home. Think about your company, organization, community, or even inside your own home. Honesty issues of some sort are always present every day at work, figure in the reasons for divorce, the struggle between teenagers and parents, and actions of clergy in religious institutions, among many others.
I care about honesty because it’s the backbone of personal and public leadership. It’s the glue that holds together whatever we call good.
In virtually all the surveys conducted on the attributes employees want to see in their leaders, honesty is the number one attribute. Beyond the Hollywood tough guy persona, beyond the charisma, beyond the money, glamour, and glitz, we want our leaders to be honest – whether they’re running our country or running our households.
We want to know that what they tell us is something we can trust because our relationships, our security, and our futures depend on it.
Take an inventory of your personal and work situation. Are you honest in your relationships? Are you honest with the people around you who expect you to be honest? Are you honest with yourself?