“In an age of growing complexity Lee Ellis draws upon his experiences as an American POW to provide a path for future leaders of our Nation—courageous accountability. [His upcoming book] ‘Engage with Honor’ touches upon the immutable leadership virtues of honor and accountability. His courageous accountability model is an excellent guide to learning our way through uncertainty and complexity. It is a must read for generations of leaders to come.”
On this day in leadership history in 1933, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his fourth “Fireside Chat.” Roosevelt spoke with familiarity to millions of Americans on current issues and was able to quell rumors and explain his policies. His tone and demeanor communicated self-assurance during times of despair and uncertainty. Roosevelt was one of radio’s greatest communicators, and the fireside chats kept him in high public regard throughout his presidency.
What’s the leadership lesson? Find your version of a fireside chat to engage with your people in a deeper, more authentic way.
FDR Fireside Chats – Wikipedia
“A very few men, like [Major] Jim Kasler, have the stamina and courage to stick to a hard line during severe punishment and continue to hold out [to do the right thing]. Most men, although they want to do a good job, will gamely resist the cruelties, but not for very long.” – Col. Larry Guarino, POW SRO
Unlike the torturous battles our leaders faced in the Vietnam POW camps*, most of the battles we face as leaders aren’t physically painful. But the emotional and mental battles to get results may seem equally challenging. Want to know the guiding force that kept my comrades and me unified while the enemy was trying to systematically divide and disable us?
It was the bond brought by our efforts to live up to the Military Code of Conduct, six articles articulated on a single page. Though most of us had memorized this code in our early training, we couldn’t have imagined what a critical role it would later play in our daily lives. When we faced the cruelty of isolation, hunger, torture, and constant threats, this code was a powerful reminder to choose the harder right and serve with honor.
Over the years, I’ve created my personal honor code—a set of articles that helps guide my life and work. Article 1 of my Honor Code is
“Tell the truth even when it’s difficult. Avoid duplicity and deceitful behavior.” [Tweet This]
In its basic form, truth is foundational for science and law. Every day, my consulting organization uses the science of behavioral assessments to determine natural behavior. In less structured day-to-day interactions such as communication, relationships, business development, and others, we know that an absence of truth and common values can lead to confusion, ambiguity, and ultimately poor results.
Most people grow as adults wanting to be known as honorable and trustworthy, even though ironically we naturally learn to lie as young “innocent” children without being taught. After leading and managing people for more than 40 years, I can assure you that lying or misrepresenting the facts is always right beneath the surface. Usually it’s fear or pride that makes it raise its ugly head. Having an awareness of this short list of common “lie generators” will help us build good character into our personal and professional DNA –
- Fear of Negative Consequences. Consider the many headlines of politicians, businessmen, religious leaders, doctors, lawyers, judges, teachers, coaches, pro athletes, media personalities and literally every role in society that lie when caught in a transgression.
- Fear of Not Looking Good or Good Enough. Insecure people will lie to enhance or protect their image. There has been a lot of talk about this issue in the media recently, but the tendency to stretch or shade the truth is a commonly used protective strategy. The root issue is pride.
- Fear of Losing. Using lies to promote oneself and smear others has become an accepted tactic in many areas of our society—especially politics. Where is the honor?
- Ideological Spin. This problem uses a half-truth or lie to advance a cause. Our communist captors boldly declared that, “Truth is that which most benefits the party.” And on that basis, they routinely tortured POWs to sign false propaganda lies.
I’m sure you can think of many other situations where truth is trampled for expediency, but truth is resilient and eventually we reap what we sow.
Regardless of the daily opportunities to misrepresent the truth or lie, we must all remain vigilant and choose the truth to get the best results for us, our teams and our society. [Tweet This]
Here are four things you can do to master Article 1 of the Honor Code –
- Understand your own behavioral strengths and struggles. Know where you’re vulnerable.
- Set the example by telling the truth even when it’s hard.
- Talk to others about why the truth is so critical to trust and organizational effectiveness.
- Bring out the truth to expose those who are telling lies.
Download a free copy of The Honor Code on my website at www.LeadingWithHonor.com.
*As a young lieutenant, Lee Ellis was shot down while flying a mission in the Vietnam War and was a POW for over five years. You can read more about his story on his publishing website, FreedomStar Media.
30 Years of Behavioral Research and Development
Based on more than 30 years of research and experience in developing leaders, Leadership Behavior DNA™, led by leadership consultant and trainer Lee Ellis, focuses on some of the key behavioral issues of leadership and will help you understand what you do well and highlight areas where more leadership development is needed. Download a sample free report at www.LeadershipBehaviorDNA.com.
- Low Priority. We’re too busy and don’t recognize how important clarity is and just neglect it.
- Bad Assumptions. We assume that others see the world that we’re seeing and therefore don’t understand that they don’t have the right picture.
- Unfocused. Some leaders don’t take the time to focus and decide what they want to happen—what success will look like.
- Lazy. Sometimes leaders are too lax in their approach, figuring that somehow it will get done. They think that they can give a few instructions, withdraw from the process, and then one day it will all be completed.
- Fear. Some leaders resist clarity because they fear the responsibility of holding others accountable—which, at times, means being firm and risking “negative emotions.”
Yes, it’s a battle, but gaining clarity is worth fighting for. It reduces the fog and ambiguity that undermine high performance. It brings understanding, alignment, and positive energy. It opens the door for synergy and teamwork. Clarity is really a 360 degree challenge!
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