"The first step toward greatness is to be honest." - Samuel Johnson Honesty and integrity are motherhood leadership phrases. And they should be. They are fundamental to leadership. Honesty and integrity produce trust, which produces high levels of confidence. High confidence encourages people to dream and to reach for new horizons. High confidence fosters risk-taking. Risk-taking and initiative are fundamental to organization change and improvement.
Our ability to lead others is directly related to our ability to forge strong relationships. Strong relationships are dependent upon trust. Trust provides the glue.
The glue, unfortunately, is not always present. Surveys of people throughout many organizations are showing that about half of them admit to unethical business practices! No wonder so many organizations are suffering from a crisis of morale. Neither is it surprising that cynicism runs rampant and people feel an ever-diminishing commitment to their organizations. Clearly, this situation will not change without strong, trustworthy leadership at all levels. Rebuilding trust demands authentic leaders who are courageous enough not to become victims of their toxic cultures or their own unethical bosses.
Most managers agree that building trust is essential to an organization's success. Studies continually show that mistrust of management and low morale are significant factors in the widening we-they gap between frontline people and managers. A survey by The Discovery Group, a company specializing in employee opinion surveys, found that 52% of employees don't believe the information they receive from management.
Compounding the problem of declining trust among employees is that many managers don't seem to be aware of it. For example, a Lakewood Research study asked managers and employees to respond to the statement, "This company genuinely cares about the well-being and morale of the employees and takes action to help people feel good about working here." Two-thirds of managers agreed with the statement. However, less than one fifth of their employees did!
Lord Thomas Macauley, a 19th-Century British historian understood that honesty and trust come from within when he said, "The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out."
Then there are those, such as one job applicant, who put a whole new spin on honesty! The applicant was filling out a job application. When he came to the question, "Have you ever been arrested?" he wrote, "No."
The next question, intended for people who had answered in the affirmative to the previous question, was "Why?"
The applicant answered it anyway: "Never got caught."
While crime doesn't pay, being trustworthy does pay off. One study of the eight biggest automobile manufacturers in Japan, South Korea, and the United States, along with 435 of their suppliers, looked at the economic value of trust (defined as "confidence that the other party will not exploit one's vulnerabilities"). "The results of [the] research indicated that in all three countries relationships with higher levels of trust had substantially lower costs. Trust actually adds value to the relationship because it encourages the sharing of resources."
Another study commissioned by Macleans magazine found that companies whose employees believe their bosses are good people-managers are the ones with the strongest shareholder returns. "Where trust in management is high," says Dawn Bell, a Vancouver-based senior consultant with Watson Wyatt Worldwide, "it is incredible what employees can do to drive business success. In organizations where the trust and confidence has gone, it is very difficult just to keep the lights on."