Having a competitive spirit is usually a positive attribute in our culture. Whether in work, life, or play, we’re hard-wired to face competition with power, tenacity, and the goal of winning.
It’s the American way. And for many, winning has become the supreme, all-important goal!
On Leadership and Lies
As we approach mid-term elections in the United States in the height of this season’s political frenzy, many candidates and their parties are desperate to win at all costs, with millions of dollars spent to influence voters. For example, spending for TV ads in several state governors races this year are in the range of $15-30 million dollars.
Beyond the vast resources being spent though, the greater concern is the blatant deceit that has become a tolerated part of election season; if you consistently vilify and defame your opponent and play dirty politics, you have a good chance of winning regardless of your own past performance or political record.
Throughout the election season, we’ll be constantly bombarded with out-of-control half-truths (also called “spin”) and outright lies about opponents, as well as promises that will never be kept.
As voters we have to be more shrewd and discerning to find truth and honor in political candidates.
Deception in the Camps
As a Vietnam POW under communist rule for over five years, I heard lies and half-truths three times a day as the speaker box in my cell spewed forth their propaganda. Consequently, my greatest source of anger and concern since repatriation has come from my aversion to lies and duplicity, especially when someone is trying to get me to believe something that is clearly not true or so far out of context that it has no relevance.
Intentional misrepresentations of facts or reckless attacks on another person’s character are anathema to a free society, and they echo the communist tactics we experienced in the camps many years ago.
Why do we tolerate such dishonorable behavior? Regardless of one’s political ideology, what is the real benefit of defending and supporting spin artists whose actions and words consistently show them to be untrustworthy? Is our Republic on a slippery slope where it’s accepted that the end justifies the means?
Unifying the Culture Through Truth
Here’s a truth that we must never forget: Lies chip away at our freedom as individuals and as a nation, and truth is the cornerstone for liberty, justice and a free society. We should make electing honorable leaders our highest priority.
The mission, vision, and values of the 4th Allied POW wing in the Hanoi Hilton were eventually combined into three words, “Return with Honor.” Our actions were governed by the Military Code of Conduct, a list of six statements developed after the Korean War to guide prisoners of war. Even though we had ideological differences on some issues, this code clarified our commitments, held us accountable to each other, and inspired an amazing bond that held us together in unity. It was our highest priority as we fought to do our duty and serve honorably under the grimmest of circumstances.
You may have sensed that truth has been under attack in our society for a long time. With our current communication technologies, the truth is twisted and spun so fast and so cleverly that it would take a full-time team of researchers to sort out the real truth in a single political contest.
Seven Codes of Honor
Clearly we need a unified code of ethical behavior—a Code of Honor to guide and draw us together into truthful dialog and debate.
Here’s a step in that direction: seven principles to renew our commitment and unify us as honorable people and leaders -
- Tell the truth even when it’s difficult. Avoid duplicity and deceitful behavior.
- Treat others with dignity and respect. Take the lead, and operate by the Golden Rule.
- Keep your word and your commitments. Ask for relief sooner than later if necessary.
- Be ethical. Operate within the laws of the land, the guidelines of your profession, and the values that you proclaim.
- Act with responsibility, do your duty, and be accountable. Own your mistakes, and work to make things better in the future.
- Be courageous. Lean into the pain of your fears to do what you know is right even when it feels unnatural or uncomfortable.
- Stay attuned to your spiritual core, your conscience, and your deepest intuitions. Listen for wisdom about honor, ethics, and courage.
What do you think would happen to our society if we all did our best to follow these seven short principles of honor? Don’t underestimate the power of a few honorable people to make a significant difference in our culture. Make a commitment to do your part as leaders in affecting positive change, and expect results from your efforts. Would you join me in making that commitment?
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Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter
His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.
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Filed under: Authentic Leadership, Practical Steps to Influence, Values-Based Leadership | Tagged: accountability speaker, character leadership, courageous culture, executive coach, Hanoi hilton, honorable leadership, Vietnam leadership | 6 Comments »