By Lee Ellis
One of best things about today’s information age is the almost instantaneous ability of media sources to shine a bright light on corruption, and it’s certainly making it tougher to hide unethical behavior. From our local communities to our nation’s capital, it’s interesting how many successful people turn to self-serving behaviors to get more money and power—violating basic ethics, policies, and the law to do crooked things (It’s okay to call them crooks even if they’re famous or popular with a segment of society, isn’t it?)
The Worldwide Human Condition
Last year we had Volkswagen’s disclosure of cheating, Credit Suisse illegally helping people evade taxes, and the FIFA corruption crisis that was deep and wide. Recently Brazil and Argentina have been in the news for ongoing scandals of corruption by government leaders, and we’ve had our share in the United States, too. Even the Chinese government has an army of investigators trying to reduce the paralyzing impact of corruption in their culture. This corruptible state is at every level in every society because it’s the human condition. The truth is that we all have some rottenness in our core.
During his time as a political prisoner in the gulag of the Soviets, Alexander Solzhenitsyn came to a radical but revealing conclusion about this problem of humankind and expressed it this way-
“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not between states, nor between classes nor between political parties, but right through every human heart, through all human hearts.”
Faithful Guardian Companions
If you’re honest with yourself, you realize that he’s right in that we’re all vulnerable. That’s why accountability is so important.
Accountability is the guardian companion of honor. It helps us keep our commitments, diligently perform our duties, and live by the values we proclaim. <<<Tweet This>>>
It can keep us from drifting off course and perhaps most importantly help us correct back quickly when we do drift.
In my upcoming book, Engage with Honor, I zero in on the core components of the Courageous Accountability Model™—Character, Courage, and Commitment.
The Three C’s
Character provides the ideal and expected values and associated behaviors that will enable us to live and lead with honor. We laid out the seven core behaviors of character in 2014 and call it the Honor Code. Almost everyone would agree to these basic tenets in the Honor Code; but when we reflect honestly on our personal experience, we know they are very difficult to keep. Given the right circumstances, this knowledge of duty—of right and wrong—can be rationalized and ignored. We need courage to keep us on track.
Courage is essential to living up to our character ideas. Without it, we will fold when faced with difficult choices. Winston Churchill once commented that –
“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities…because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”
Without courage, we’ll not be able to live up to our desired character values—doubts and fears will take us out and we’ll fold under pressure. We must always be ready to counteract our weakness by employing the Courage Challenge—that is, leaning into your doubts and fears to do what you know is right, even when it feels unnatural, unsafe, or uncomfortable. Following this path requires an extreme commitment.
Commitment is like an ever-present mirror that reminds us of our vows, our obligations, our loyalties, and our duties.<<<Tweet This>>>
We cannot look aside and pretend we don’t notice that we’re violating our character. Commitment reflects back as a reminder of who we are and what we stand for.
Getting Daily Results
Most of us recognize that good character is the foundation of leadership because it is fundamental to trust—which is the currency of leadership. However, the problem comes when we just assume that we have good character—as almost everyone does. But it can’t be assumed. Rather, it must be evidenced through daily courage and commitment when:
- decisions are hard.
- vulnerability is required.
- reliability is needed.
- execution of responsibility is essential.
- fear of failure creeps in.
- ambiguity and uncertainty develop.
- we want to stand up for what we know is right—even when risks are involved.
These and many more situations are always hard. It is sound character that counsels and guides us as we face the challenges of leadership. Leaders are held to a higher standard and that challenge is compounded because we’re trying to balance our own self-interests, the public good of our people, and our personal imperfections.
The Basis for Accountability
Our ability to be accountable and to hold others accountable comes down to the core of our identity—as evidenced in our character, courage, and commitment. Now is a good time to take a hard look at our core. Will it facilitate accountability and serve as the guardian companion for your honor?
>>>Watch the Trailer for Lee Ellis’ Upcoming Book, Engage with Honor