For anyone today, especially those in leadership, honesty and integrity are absolutely essential to survival. A lot of businesspeople don't realize how closely they're being watched by others inside and outside their organization. Remember when you were a kid in grammar school, how you used to sit there staring at your teacher all day? By the end of the school year, you could do a perfect imitation of all your teacher's mannerisms. You were aware of the slightest nuances in your teacher's voice — all the little clues that distinguished levels of meaning, that told you the difference between bluff and "now I mean business." And you were able to do that after eight or nine months of observation. Suppose you had five or 10 years — do you think there would have been anything about your teacher you didn't know?
Now fast-forward and use that analogy as a manager. Do you think there's anything your people don't know about you right this minute? If you haven't been totally aboveboard and honest with them, do you really think you've gotten away with it? Not too likely. But if you've been led to believe that you've gotten away with it, there might be a good probability that people are afraid of you, and that's a problem in its own right.
But there is another side of this coin. In any organization, people want to believe in their leaders. If you give them reason to trust you, they're not going to go looking for reasons to think otherwise, and they'll be just as perceptive about your positive qualities as they are about the negative ones.
A situation that happened some years ago at a company in the Midwest illustrates this perfectly. The wife of a new employee experienced complications in the delivery of a baby. There was a medical bill of more than $10,000, and the health insurance company didn't want to cover it. The employee hadn't been on the payroll long enough, the pregnancy was a pre-existing condition, etc., etc.
In any case, the employee was desperate. He approached the company CEO and asked him to talk to the insurance people. The CEO agreed, and the next thing the employee knew, the bill was gone and the charges were rescinded. When he told some colleagues about the way the CEO had so readily used his influence with the insurance company, they just shook their heads and smiled. The CEO had paid the bill out of his own pocket, and everybody knew it, no matter how quietly it had been done.
Now an act of dishonesty can't be hidden either, and it will instantly undermine the authority of a leader. But an act of integrity and kindness like the example above is just as obvious to all concerned. When you're in a leadership position, you have the choice of how you will be seen, but you will be seen one way or the other, make no mistake about it.
One of the most challenging areas of leadership is your family. Leadership of a family demands even higher standards of honesty and integrity, and the stakes are higher too. You can replace disgruntled employees and start over. You can even get a new job for yourself, if it comes to that. But your family can't be shuffled like a deck of cards. If you haven't noticed, kids are great moral philosophers, especially as they get into adolescence. They're determined to discover and expose any kind of hypocrisy, phoniness, or lack of integrity on the part of authority figures, and if we're parents, that means us. It's frightening how unforgiving kids can be about this, but it really isn't a conscious decision on their part; it's just a necessary phase of growing up.
They're testing everything, especially their parents.
As a person of integrity yourself, you'll find it easy to teach integrity to your kids, and they in turn will find it easy to accept you as a teacher. This is a great opportunity and also a supreme responsibility, because kids simply must be taught to tell the truth: to mean what they say and to say what they mean.
"Praise is one the world's most effective teaching and leadership tools. Criticism and blame, even if deserved, are counterproductive unless all other approaches have failed."
Now for the other side of the equation: We all know people who have gotten ahead as a result of dishonest or unethical behavior. When you're a child, you might naively think that never happens, but when you get older, you realize that it does. Then you think you've really wised up. But that's not the real end of it. When you get older, you see the long-term consequences of dishonest gain, and you realize that in the end it doesn't pay.
"Hope of dishonest gain is the beginning of loss." I don't think that old saying refers to loss of money. I think it actually means loss of self-respect. You can have all the material things in the world, but if you've lost respect for yourself, what do you really have? The only way to ever attain success and enjoy it is to achieve it honestly with pride in what you've done.
This isn't just a sermon, it's very practical advice. Not only can you take it to heart — you can take it to the bank.
What Constitutes a Good Life
The ultimate expression of life is not a paycheck. The ultimate expression of life is not a Mercedes. The ultimate expression of life is not a million dollars or a bank account or a home. Here's the ultimate expression of life in my opinion, and that is living the good life. Here's what we must ask constantly, "What, for me, would be a good life?" And you have to keep going over and over the list. A list including areas such as spirituality, economics, health, relationships, and recreation. What would constitute a good life? I've got a short list.
1) Number one, productivity. You won't be happy if you don't produce. The game of life is not rest. We must rest, but only long enough to gather strength to get back to productivity. What's the reason for the seasons and the seeds, the soil and the sunshine, the rain and the miracle of life? It's to see what you can do with it, to try your hand. Other people have tried their hand; here's what they did. You try your hand to see what you can do. So part of life is productivity.
2) Next are good friends. Friendship is probably the greatest support system in the world. Don't deny yourself the time to develop this support system. Nothing can match it. It's extraordinary in its benefit. Friends are those wonderful people who know all about you and still like you. A few years ago I lost one of my dearest friends. He died at age 53 — heart attack. David is gone, but he was one of my very special friends. I used to say of David that if I was stuck in a foreign jail somewhere accused unduly and if they would allow me one phone call, I would call David. Why? He would come and get me. That's a friend. Somebody who would come and get you regardless of time or distance. Now we've all got casual friends. And if you called them they would say, "Hey, if you get back, call me and we'll have a party." So you've got to have both, real friends and casual friends.
3) Next on the list of a good life is your culture — your language, your music, the ceremonies, the traditions, the dress. All of that is so vitally important that you must keep it alive. In fact it is the uniqueness of all of us that when blended together brings vitality, energy, power, influence, uniqueness, and rightness to the world.
4) Next is your spirituality. It helps to form the foundation of the family that builds the nation. And make sure you study, practice, and teach. Don't be careless about the spiritual part of your nature; it's what makes us who we are, different from animals — dogs, cats, birds, and mice. Spirituality.
5) Next — here's what my parents taught me. Don't miss anything. Don't miss the game. Don't miss the performance, don't miss the movie, don't miss the show, don't miss the dance. Go to everything you possibly can. Buy a ticket to everything you possibly can. Go see everything and experience all you possibly can. This has served me so well to this day. Just before my father died at age 93, if you were to call him at 10:30 or 11:00 at night, he wouldn't be home. He was at the rodeo, he was watching the kids play softball, he was listening to the concert, he was at church, he was somewhere every night.
Live a vital life. Here's one of the reasons why. If you live well, you will earn well. If you live well, it will show in your face, it will show in the texture of your voice. There will be something unique and magical about you if you live well. It will infuse not only your personal life but also your business life. And it will give you a vitality nothing else can give.
6) Next are your family and the inner circle. Invest in them, and they'll invest in you. Inspire them, and they'll inspire you. With your inner circle, take care of the details. When my father was still alive, I used to call him when I traveled. He'd have breakfast most every morning with the farmers. Little place called The Decoy Inn out in the country where we lived in southwest Idaho. So Papa would go there and have breakfast, and I'd call him just to give him a special day. Now if I was in Israel, I'd have to get up in the middle of the night, but it only took five minutes, 10 minutes. So I'd call Papa, and they'd bring him the phone. I'd say, "Papa, I'm in Israel." He'd say, "Israel! Son, how are things in Israel?" He'd talk real loud so everybody could hear — my son's calling me from Israel. I'd say, "Papa last night they gave me a reception on the rooftop underneath the stars overlooking the Mediterranean." He'd say, "Son, a reception on the rooftop underneath the stars overlooking the Mediterranean." Now everybody knows the story. It only took five to 10 minutes, but what a special day for my father, age 93.
If a father walks out of the house and he can still feel his daughter's kiss on his face all day, he's a powerful man. If a husband walks out of the house and he can still feel the imprint of his wife's arms around his body he's invincible all day. It's the special stuff with the inner circle that makes you strong and powerful and influential. So don't miss that opportunity. Here's the greatest value. The prophet said, "There are many virtues and values, but here's the greatest, one person caring for another." There is no greater value than love. Better to live in a tent on the beach with someone you love than to live in a mansion by yourself. One person caring for another, that's one of life's greatest expressions.
So make sure in your busy day to remember the true purpose and the reasons you do what you do. May you truly live the kind of life that will bring the fruit and rewards that you desire.