“No legacy is so rich as honesty” — William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well (act III, scene V)

Honesty is a long-term investment, guaranteed to yield handsome dividends down the line. Dishonesty is like indebtedness. Through it, you auction off your future for gains that may seem significant now but will quickly fade into irrelevance.

As I have pointed out in my book Talent Leadership, honesty is one of the core elements of character. As such, it is in the illustrious company of other quality character elements, such as courage, modesty, diligence, loyalty, and gratitude.

Honesty is the first step toward wisdom and greatness. 

Together, these elements define not only a leader’s true character but also his or her worth.

What is the value of honesty in leadership? Being in the spotlight and at the center of their followers’ attention, leaders know that they have to inspire, assure, and show the way through example. They simply cannot afford to be dishonest.

Honesty is the Foundation of Positivity, Meaningful Relationships, and Teamwork

The line between ruthless business and dishonesty is not a fine one. Taking the shortcut of dishonesty even in seemingly insignificant matters is never an option. Small lies have an uncanny ability to balloon into major problems, which will eat up your reputation and tarnish your image as a leader. 

Intelligent leaders avoid exaggerations and do not plunder company property. They do not show up late for work or leave early.

They need the trust of their reports and they know that the only way they can earn that trust is through honesty.

Honesty and trust are the indispensable prerequisites of effective human activity. 

You can only base meaningful relationships on trust, as a person and as a leader. Your reports need to trust the information they receive from you, and they need to trust that their co-workers do what is required of them as well. Trust permeates effective human activity on every level. There can be no cooperation without trust, and there can be no trust without honesty.

Honesty Prevents Mistakes from Growing into Failures

As an intelligent leader, you need to make it clear that honesty takes precedence over any other concern in your organization. You cannot have your reports sneaking in a little white lie here and there when they feel that they may be hindering progress on a group assignment. Minute instances of dishonesty will grow into major issues almost every time.

Perhaps the most practical function of honesty in the context of an organization is that it can nip failures in the bud. Lead by example in this regard as well. Hold yourself to strict standards of honesty and demand the same from your employees.

Leadership Maturity Stems from Honesty

Honesty sounds good on paper, but leaders know that it is never pleasant to be the bearer of bad news.

Mature leaders also know, however, that the right path is not always that of the least resistance. Obstacles will arise, and the mature leader deals with such setbacks with honesty and integrity.

Honesty is closely correlated with leadership maturity. Indeed, dishonesty is an immature behavior, much like scapegoating when experiencing setbacks in personal terms.

A mature leader does not “save face” by fibbing. He or she accepts responsibility, digests the setback, and almost immediately begins to think of ways to solve the problem.

Honesty is at the Root of All Leadership Skills

In my Wheel of Intelligent Leadership, I have placed honesty, together with the other mentioned elements of character, at the core. These elements define your values, beliefs, and positive references. They are at the root of your emotions, thoughts, and behavioral tendencies. They make you what you are as a leader.

In the context of leadership development planning, you can target every one of your leadership skills through character elements such as honesty.

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