Despite all of the recent news about business ethics and leaders that have been caught violating the trust of their companies and shareholders, I wanted to take a moment to talk about trust and ethics. When I talk about leadership and work with developing leaders, I often refer back to one of the greatest books ever written on leadership, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by my coach and mentor John C. Maxwell.
In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Law #6 Law of Solid Ground, Maxwell states that “Trust is the foundation of Leadership.” No matter how smart or gifted we are, if we don’t have trust as our foundation our leadership will come crumbling down. Over the last seven years, we have seen countless examples of organizations and companies around the globe violate trust. These very leaders have violated trust amongst the public, their people and even the shareholders, these men and women were of no character and ultimately lead to these companies' demise.
I was sitting down with an individual the other day that wanted me to talk on the topic of business ethics. He said, “Josh I would like you to come into my organization and give a short presentation on business ethics.” I looked at him and gave a small laugh. He asked, “what is so funny.” I told him that business ethics doesn’t exist. He, of course, said sure there is, a lot of companies out there are facing ethical issues in the business, just look in the news.
I told him, yes but it’s just plain ethics; you either have them or you don’t. If you have ethics or are ethical by nature, it translates into business, in family and in life in general. You’re just an ethical person with character, as my mentor, John Maxwell would say. He asked me, can ethics be taught? I told him, of course, it can be taught. But what is the point of holding a class, giving out workbooks, and providing a speech, if the leaders are not ethical?
People do what people see!
You see ethics and having ethics has to be so much more then we are used to. It’s more than teaching, it’s more than just lip service. It takes a life that
is filled with character, a life that is filled with integrity. Based on my experience on this endeavor, this is what I have come to learn.
When we have that unique character and that deep trust built with our people, then we can make any change that we want, and they will follow. We can take our people to new heights because they trust us. But if we violate that trust in any way, it’s gone. So are our followers. People simply won’t follow someone they don’t trust. It’s wonderful to have all the competence in the world and have that leadership savvy that everyone desires. But without character, without respect, without trust, it’s impossible over the long run to be a successful leader.
One of the best quotes I have heard is from my mentor John Maxwell; he says that “charisma will get you in the door; character keeps you inside the room.”
As a leader, we have to be more than flashes of brilliance and quick answers. At the end of the day the decisions we make, are going to be based upon the motives we have. We are all wired that way. It really is an inside job and we have to develop leaders from the inside out.
The Law of Solid Ground basically, in the end, says that the leaders we follow are bigger and have more character on the inside than on the outside. These people are good, they are extremely competent in what they do and they know how to lead. But more importantly, they lead for the right reasons. The lead to add value and they lead to make it better for the people that follow them. That’s the law of solid ground. Once you have established that trust as your foundation, then you can lead to new heights. This might take a while but once you are there you, you will be a leader others will want to follow.
McAfee Institute Leadership