Posts Tagged ‘triggers’

Character and Personality #10: A simple honesty

by Gary Monti on September 7, 2010

The final blog in this series on character and personality deals with the leaders affect, i.e., what others observe with a leader who shows integrity regarding the character and personality traits discussed in previous blogs. Others observe a simple honesty. In this day and age it may seem paradoxical to use the word “simple” considering the ever-increasing complexity of business life. The reality is: the need for this simple honesty increases right along with the complexity. Achieving it is a daily challenge since expediency in a fast-paced environment can push one to go for the short-term gain.

Looking at the lives of leaders such as Gandhi, George Washington, Martin Luther King, Joan of Arc, and Chief Joseph the deliberateness of their behavior in an ever-changing environment provided a much-needed stability for their followers. They were very sophisticated leaders who displayed simple honesty.

Moral- vs Emotional Integrity

Underpinning simple honesty is integrity. Integrity is a word that is bandied about and can become quite slippery. One way to nail down its meaning is to look at two usages: moral and emotional.

Moral integrity reflects one’s ethics in codes of conduct that delineate between good and evil. In politics this surfaces frequently. However, I believe it misses the mark. Why? Moral integrity runs the risk of being associated with “head stuff.” To borrow from previous blogs, it runs the risk of flowing from ego consciousness. The danger is this: codes of conduct can be formed supposedly based on taking the higher ground when actually it has more to do with being attracted to or wanting to avoid people who reflect our shadow self. (For more on this see the blog on Triggers.) So, in the end, moral integrity can reflect deep-seated fears and aggressions. This is reflected in the aphorism, “More people have been killed in the name of God than for any other reason.”

Moral integrity DOES have value and it IS important. However, it comes from being a subset of something greater. That something is emotional integrity. A simple definition of emotion integrity is:

Thoughts, feelings, and actions are mutually reinforcing and integrated.

Achieving this is no small feat! Remember that battle between ego consciousness and shadow self? Emotional integrity deals with it directly. It is reflected in a simple honesty. Deviation from it leads to dishonesty, a form of lying.

Children are very good at picking up on emotional honesty and dishonesty. They can intuitively feel when someone is lying to them by simply seeing the discord between thoughts, feelings, and actions. They may not understand the subject matter but they can see when someone who is speaking from supposed moral integrity displays fear or aggression. They sense the disconnect between thoughts, feelings, and actions. The child can then proceed to shut down or act out since they are in a powerless situation much like some employees.

There’s a phrase in the business world when one refuses to see this disconnect in others and in turn becomes emotionally dishonest. We say, “He drank the Kool-Aid.” This is an extremely good phrase. The etiology is Reverend Jim Jones’s direction to his followers to commit suicide by drinking cyanide-laced Flavor Aid at their colony in Jonestown.

Situational Decision-Making

So how does a simple honesty play out in changing business environments? Answering this question is what burdens leaders. The leader may have to go through great changes herself. Doris Kearns Goodwin does a masterful job of showing Abraham Lincoln’s journey in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Team of Rivals. This is in stark contrast to Jones’s megalomania.

Trust and trust

I’ve found this reduces to two definitions of trust. The first is with a capital “T”. Here Trust means a willingness to be vulnerable in the other person’s presence, e.g., followers Trusted Lincoln and Jones. The second definition is with a small “t”. Here trust means expectations based on consistency of behavior, e.g., if I walk by someone’s desk and say “Hi!” each morning that person will probably trust I will say “Hi!” tomorrow morning.

Lincoln could be Trusted because his behavior said he could be trusted to do what ever it took to preserve the Union. He showed a simple honesty in a changing situation.