On Leadership and The Value of Honesty

Honesty is the Best Policy

As children, most of us had parents who tried to convince us that cheaters never prosper and liars will not go to heaven.

The theory is of course a great one, but almost every day in the news I hear about business leaders being charged and convicted for a variety of commercial crimes.

Lying, Cheating  B@${@&D$!

Sadly, I am beginning to think that a lot of prosperous people are the worst liars on earth and that heaven must be crowded with some of the most philanthropic cheaters ever born.

Happily, we are all aware of completely scrupulous people who prosper and reach great financial heights while exercising pure honesty. However, despite the teachings of our parents, dishonesty is still a large factor in business today.

Do cheaters and liars prosper?…Of course they do! Do they live happy lives?…Of course not!

Five Types of Liars

There are basically five types of liars in the business world:

1. Compulsive liars

People who are so psychologically insecure that they believe lying is necessary for survival. They will pile one lie on top of the next and sometimes begin to believe them.

2. Blatantly dishonest, remorseless liars

Those who cannot differentiate between right and wrong and believe that lying is a great way to get what they want.  They are usually extremely greedy and some of them have real criminal intent.

3. Strategic liars

People who stretch the truth, make up false stories or withhold the truth to win or make a point. These folks are often the best negotiators and deal makers in large, successful businesses.

4. White liars

They are the ones who believe that a small white lie now and again is not really a lie at all. These people often justify a lie because they believe it helped someone or at the very least did not harm anyone.

5. Situational liars

These are the lesser liars who do not make a habit of lying but will twist and turn the truth to avoid an unpleasant or difficult situation. They might cheat on their taxes or fake an illness to avoid work.

Dishonesty is all Around Us

You can find people from all five types at all levels of business.

The most common form of dishonesty at the management or executive level is the Strategic type.

North American business standards require that corporations succeed and grow. In order to grow, businesses must compete with others in their field and often the best way to show superiority to potential customers is to tell lies about their products and services. It is also a common way to lure new employees into the fold or convince others not to leave.

Business leaders who convince customers and employees of falsehoods to grow and succeed are often rewarded with huge paycheques and amazing bonuses.

In some cases they are pushed into a web of lies to keep their jobs or get the next promotion.

Success is the primary goal and anything short of outright criminal activity is justifiable as long as profitability is maintained. Occasionally, the dishonesty crosses the line and alas, criminal activity ensues. The twentieth and twenty-first centuries are replete with successful executives-turned lawbreakers.

Some high level leaders think nothing of lying to employees and customers. They wear their dishonesty like a crown and pride themselves on their ability to negotiate favourable deals at the seemingly minor price of truth.

They justify their larceny by convincing themselves and those around them that the business world is a kill or be killed environment where only the strong shall survive and a win by any means is a good win!

Dishonesty is Hard to Live With

Dishonesty is evilDespite their financial success, most dishonest leaders are never truly happy.

They are often cynical, distrustful and fearful that someone might lie to them or catch them in one of their own lies.

Many often show signs of extreme fatigue and others seemed distant or agitated at the most inappropriate times. They have difficulty being present and they will occasionally lapse into inexplicable disengagement or anger.

No matter how much money they make, they can never relax and enjoy it.  They live in a jungle of mistrust, misfeasance, and larceny that no normal human psyche can withstand for an extended period. Often, the thirst for success is so powerful that even the money they want so badly will not soothe their troubled souls.

It is true what they say: “Money does not bring happiness!”

Honesty Brings Peace of Mind

When you live of life of pure honesty, you have far less to worry about! It is almost impossible to regret being honest and telling the truth almost never brings any personal guilt.

Honesty produces wonderful reputations and creates friends wherever it goes.

Most people want to associate with an honest person and everyone will come to the aid of someone who consistently tells them the truth. Honest people smile a lot and find the positive elements in everything they do.

Often the positive attention they garner will bring opportunities for financial success that dishonest folks will never be offered. They are the good people of the world and others enjoy watching them succeed.

The trust that honesty brings can catapult good people to fabulous wealth!

What is the Value of Honesty?

Honesty, like success, cannot be measured in money.  Honest people may or may not achieve the financial success of their less-honest brethren, but regardless of their bank balances, their lives will be more fulfilled and they will be truly honoured and celebrated after death.

Honest people are the real leaders of humanity... the ones we all look up to and the ones we all want to emulate.

What is the value of honesty?…………….It is Priceless!

Wayne Kehl is President and CCO at Dynamic Leadership Inc
He is author and behavioral analyst who lectures on leadership and motivation
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8 responses to “On Leadership and The Value of Honesty

  1. I think your basic thesis is correct, but would like to read examples from the last 10 to 20 years that back it up. Enron comes to mind. There are certainly a lot of examples from the political world. And most of us have been lied to by prospective clients.

    There is also a dimension of honesty that needs to be tempered. I have prided myself for being “brutally frank.” However, in the process I have inadvertently hindered communication, and shut down progress toward a common goal. This kind of “frankness” can be a killer, especially when the frank contribution is unnecessary. I was once invited to a leadership team discussion about company progress toward our goals. After the president opened the meeting, I said something totally unnecessary. “Are we here to speak openly about what we think and how we feel, or is this just a time to simile and agree to everything?” One of my colleagues made a joke about it, which broke the tension, but I was never invited to participate again. Reflecting on this later, I realized that my comment added nothing, and was completely unnecessary.


  2. Pingback: Manly Honesty « Leading as a Man of Character·

  3. Hi J. Mark…I am not certain that being “brutally frank” is synonomous with “Honesty” as I intended to discuss it in my article. I do agree that comments that you describe as “completely unnecessary” can tend to create unfortunate issues and should be avoided…but that is another article 🙂

    Hi Evergreen. Thanks for the kind words. As to your question, I have to say that if a person’s superior is dishonest it is difficult to deal with him or her. However, in my mind, when we continue to follow and support dishonest leaders, we exacerbate the problem and do ourselves a disservice. It is a difficult position to be in…Thanks again.


  4. Hi Wayne! I really like your post and touched on a similar topic today. What thoughts might you have on the person who lies about their personality or experiences in order to create an image of themselves? In short, they create a facade for others to view. I speak mainly of the social context, but this type certainly finds its way into interviews.
    I argue that this dishonesty, when not used directly for gain, can be constructive in the sense that reflects a recognition of the liar’s own faults. I am curious as to your opinion. Thanks for your time and the post!


  5. Just a thought — those unscrupulous enough to create the lie and the atmosphere to ‘succeed’ in the lies rarely worry about honor and celebrity AFTER death.


  6. HI Cody…Honestly, I am having trouble understanding your comment that lying can be constructive when not used for gain. Sorry, I have come to the point in my life where I believe that no lie I was ever aware of, or involved with was worth the loss of integrity.

    HI Luanne…The very successful liars I have known did in fact have extreme care for their celebrity after death. In fact, they were deliberately creating a false legacy because they were insecure and feared that their reality was inadequate.

    All the Best


  7. Pingback: DISHONESTY 不誠實 « The One Short Memories in Life Everlasting BLOG~·

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