In every aspect of our lives we depend on the integrity of others, and others do the same with us. That’s why it’s such a big deal when we discover someone we trust hasn’t been truthful or hasn’t been playing by the rules.
Although integrity is one of the most essential and admired leadership traits, in today’s world it seems to be lacking. What you see in leaders is not often what you get.
Here are 7 masks some leaders wear:
1. Orator (The Two Face mask) – Double tongued are they. They can sound so persuasive and so sincere. Fervent lips which sound so eloquent can hide true character. Behind the dazzling mask lies their real intentions of deception. Erroneous communications are a big cause of lack of perceived trustworthiness in bosses. Politicians are notorious and highly populate this category. However, their actions always expose them. We don’t take them at face value because we don’t know which face they have on.
2. Advocate (The 3 Musketeers mask)- “One for all and one for one.” They are all for me, myself and I. The love of power is their main motivator. They outwardly proclaim they are people focused, and their priority is with the team but behind closed doors they are self- seeking. Therefore when the opportunity is presented to prove it they cannot. They will do anything to make themselves look good, or maintain their status quo even at the expense of the team.
3. Philanthropist (The Robin Hood mask) – They give with the right hand but secretly take back with the left hand. Under this disguise these type of leaders give openly so others can think highly of them. If there was no fanfare they would not support charitable initiatives. Former Tyco International Ltd. Chairman Dennis Kozlowski improperly used company funds to promote himself as a generous benefactor. He committed more than $100 million of the conglomerate’s money to good causes however, his own foundation gave little to charity. He was accused of stealing $134 million from the company and served 8 years in prison.
4. Obdurate (The Iron Man mask) – They scarcely show their true feelings or human side. They think they need to have this public tough image. Marissa Mayer, former CEO of Yahoo came across as cold and disconnected to her employees. Her policies (maternity leave and long-term telecommuting) caused outrage. Adopting this persona alienates and pushes people away. By not showing any vulnerability, such leaders do not develop deep meaningful connections or build relationships with their team.
5. Meek (The Mister Fantastic mask) – They appear so humble and act down to earth when in fact they have an entitlement and superiority complex. However, their true colors are revealed in unguarded moments. I remember once working late and overhearing a manager speaking with a supervisor. He didn’t realize I was there and openly spoke to her. As I sat there I couldn’t believe that this is the person I thought I knew. When he came out of his office and saw me by my desk, he seemed really disoriented and shocked and asked if I had overheard him. Well, my whole perception of him changed from that day.
6. Proficient – (The Phantom of the Opera mask) – Some leaders conceal imperfections in favor of a polished image. The demands or expectations that society creates leaves them feeling mediocre and inadequate. They are uncomfortable in their own skin so they try to measure up and may even employ unethical methods to fit in. Lying on his resume cost former Bausch & Lomb CEO Ronald Zarrella $1.1 million in bonus after it was revealed he did not have an MBA as recorded. Company officials declined to accept his resignation. He remained in his role for another six years before retiring in 2008. Ironically, he probably didn’t need that degree. His prior job experiences were almost certainly enough. Still, like so many people, he seemed to have yearned for a status symbol.
7. Conformist – (The Shape-Shifter mask) – In this case, top management puts pressure on these types of managers to change their principles. Their style may not fit in with the changing culture. There is a shift between their preferred style of behavior and what the company wants. They play it safe to preserve their position and privileges. They just follow orders and exude no loyalty to employees. It’s demotivating working for a manager who does not stand up for their team. If you make a mistake they quickly turn into judge, jury and executioner. It’s hard to feel passion for a job when you experience this.
In the era of social media, where leaders’ personal and professional lives are often transparently intertwined, the mask eventually becomes apparent. Trust once lost is often hard to regain. Integrity requires humble introspection.
It requires you do what is right – not what is easy. Our actions must mirror our words in all facets of life. It all starts with keeping your word, making fair decisions, communicating honestly, taking responsibility, treating others with dignity and respect and giving credit where it’s due. There are many things you can lack and still steer clear of danger. Integrity isn’t one of them. If you don’t have integrity, people will not trust, believe or follow you. If you don’t have integrity, you have nothing.
ETHICS IS NOT a word used very often behind the walls of companies and organizations. Many companies have a set of values and company policies. However, very few companies educate leaders about ethics and encourage leaders to discuss ethics with their teams.
Ethics are usually an afterthought, taken seriously only after an event that causes a business or team to fall apart. If understood and put into practice by a dedicated leader, ethics have the potential to turn stagnant, declining teams into productive and engaged ones. Ethics enable new teams to continue to grow, sustain, and thrive as the individuals and the business evolve.
Ethics are the foundation for peace and progress. Don’t we all crave both peace and progress at work? Ethics are timeless principles for behavior toward ourselves and others that translate to specific actions.
Ethics are what fuel personal growth and make large-scale collaborative efforts work. The lack of clarity about what ethics are and what ethics really involve in action is the primary barrier for many leaders in practicing ethics at work. Here is how an understanding and intentional practice of ethics at work make leaders, and therefore businesses, stronger and more successful.
Truthfulness over time opens and repairs communication lines.
Ethics prize the principle of truthfulness. Though it seems straightforward, it often takes courage to truly be truthful with team members and peers. Leaders that practice truthfulness with team members build genuine trust over time. Leaders that practice truthful, transparent communication build a team culture of interpersonal respect and alignment.
A practice for cultivating trust is to have regular one-on-one meetings with team members. In your one-on-one meetings, leave technology and distractions behind. Give your team members dedicated focus, ask if they have questions, and give them positive and constructive feedback. Leaders develop trust through transparent and genuine communication. Teams united in honesty and truthful communications move forward as a cohesive unit.
Opportunities for individual development fuel collective progress.
Leaders that understand and practice ethics at work are also better at motivating and empowering individuals in order to fuel collective progress. Another foundational ethical principle is the concept of non-stealing. In workplaces, non-stealing goes far beyond just stealing of physical possessions. Non-stealing in leadership involves not stealing (but instead giving) opportunities, knowledge, and acknowledgment to team members.
Leaders can practice the ethical practice of non-stealing by giving knowledge, skills, and opportunities to team members enable progress. In one-on-one meetings, share your skills and knowledge with team members. Mentor them as they work through a special project or assignment on their own. When individuals are given opportunities to grow individually, they are more dedicated and skilled contributors. Leaders that practice non-stealing understand that individual peace and progress must happen for each team member in order for the whole to move forward.
Non-attachment enables creative problem solving and the generation of new ideas.
Leaders often find themselves stuck, leading a stagnant team because they are attached to their ways or outdated beliefs. Beliefs about what is right or beliefs about people’s limitations often hold back the team from progressing. Leaders who are not open to new ideas and feedback compromise the collective progress of the team.
Non-attachment is practiced by letting go of your outdated beliefs about people, ways, results, or status. New ideas and suggestions that team members bring to the table are often the answers to proactively solving or avoiding problems. Don’t hold firm beliefs about the way things should be, how far someone should progress, or the exact way results should turn out. Allow space for limitless possibility and evolution to happen. Invite and evaluate new ideas and suggestions with an open mind. This practice enables collective progress.
Positive communication and mindfulness foster focus and protect valuable energy.
Finally, ethical leaders are masters of cultivating the conditions for collaboration. In dynamic, fast-paced business environments, leaders and teams often find themselves rushing and producing work full of errors. People burn out quickly after long days of exhausting meetings. Small disagreements or misalignments turn into political issues. Arguments deter focus and negatively impact productivity and engagement. Ethical leaders know how to practice control of energy in order to cultivate focus and ease for their team.
Control of energy involves communicating with a positive tone. Even when giving constructive feedback, ethical leaders start with a positive affirmation and use a tone of equanimity throughout the conversation. This is a sustainable rather than a short-sighted approach. This control of energy helps to cultivate calm and protect the energy of the team and themselves. Control of energy also involves taking constructive rest breaks often to restore and rejuvenate. A walk outside, away from the screen and often chaotic work environment can do wonders to reset your mind and body. Lead by example and encourage your team members to do the same.
Ethics are the foundation for strong leadership and collaboration.
When understood and put into practice at work, ethics have the potential to fuel productivity and motivation. Ethical leaders cultivate focus, trust, and connection, which are key ingredients for successful leadership. Leaders that practice ethics in action find that the principles reach far beyond company walls and add value to their lives outside of work as well. Ethics are universal and add value to our work and life.
How can you put ethics into practice to strengthen your leadership? Many leaders don’t realize that diverse teams often have very different individual perceptions of what ethics look like in practice. Teams need to learn a collective language for ethics in order for ethics to be accessible instead of vague. Leaders can lead by example by putting ethics into.
One of the mentors I feel very fortunate to have had in my life was the late Richard Neustadt, a founding professor of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and author of the classic book Presidential Power. When I was a student at the Kennedy School in the mid-80’s, I had Dr. Neustadt for a couple of classes, got to work with him on some special projects and was part of a group of students he’d occasionally have over to his house to teach us about the subtleties of scotch whiskey.
There are a lot of insights that Dick Neustadt is remembered for but the one that is probably the most cited is that, in spite of the awesome resources at his (and, someday soon, her) command, the true power of the President of the United States is the power to persuade. To really be effective in accomplishing their agenda, the President must influence different stakeholders and constituencies to work with him or her.
Note the key preposition in that last sentence. It’s with. As an executive I was talking with recently reminded me, great leaders work with people, not through people. You may, at first, think that the dichotomy between with and through is a distinction without a difference. Not so fast, my friend. Let’s dig a little deeper on the difference between these two prepositions, with and through, and the impact they have on effective leadership.
We can start with definitions. The primary definition of with is “accompanied by.” The primary definition of through is “moving in one side and out of the other side of.” Maybe I could end this post right here. If you’re the colleague, the follower or some other stakeholder, would you rather be accompanied by or moved through one side and out the other? My guess is that for most people the answer is self-evident. You’d rather be accompanied. That’s likely at the essence of the power of persuasion that Dr. Neustadt wrote and talked about.
So, what are other markers of a leader who works with people instead of through people?
As the executive I was recently talking with told me, when you’re working with people, you start with respect for your colleagues. Unless proven otherwise, you assume that they, like you, are acting in the similar best interests of the enterprise. You assume that they’re highly motivated and qualified until proven otherwise.
You also have a focus on what they need as much as on what you need. If you only come in with what you need and what you have right and everyone else has wrong, over the long run you lose your effectiveness.
When you don’t have total control, you have to have influence. Influence – the power to persuade – takes root when you work with people rather than through them.