Building Trust with Honor
While doing the research for my latest book “Trusted to Lead” I was fascinated to find leaders in business, sports, and the military most closely associated the word “trust” with one other word: “respect.”
Recall Aretha Franklin’s classic song: “All I’m askin’ for is a little respect!”
Respecting others is one of the most important things we can do to earn their respect. Respect is a form of Honor.
There are two kinds of respect – one comes from fear, the other comes from honor.
In the first kind, we give someone respect because we fear what they might do if we are disrespectful. When walking down a country road in Arizona, if we meet a rattlesnake, we respect the reptile for fear of being struck. A leader who strikes venomously, injecting fear may also find venom returned in the form of subterfuge, as any leader has experienced when they have trouble with unions. Fear begets anger, which begets revenge.
The other form of respect is derived from honor. A leader who respects others wins their respect; it must be given before it’s received.
For, if we can’t honor someone, even with their faults, we, by default, dishonor them. To give someone respect means we value their contributions.
Colleen Barrett, President Emeritus, of Southwest Airlines said it really well: “We want our employees to be themselves – this is a great freedom – we don’t want them to fall into cookie-cutter molds, we hire them as individuals, we want them to be themselves, and share that personality with their teammates and customers, not play a role, to be like they are at home.”
For many, honor means respecting the value of others, and more, treasuring honorable differences among others as a never-ending source of creative energy – the energy that keeps people feeling like they are important and can make a difference.
If you are a leader aspiring to build trust, simply do not tolerate dishonorable actions, not so much for ethical or philosophical reasons, but because dishonor is a poison that kills people’s energy. By respecting others, we earn their respect.
The very most important thing we can honor is actually not other people, but our own word.
I asked scores of people about the meaning of trust. Many commented that they trusted someone if they did what they said they would do – they walked the talk. That’s the meaning of integrity – integrating words and actions.
Integrity is not easy because it often means forsaking the expediency of perhaps lying a little here, cheating a bit there, deceiving by creating an illusion or implication, or avoiding the truth to hide under the disguise of silence. However, the consequences of twisting the truth, failing to keep one’s word, or pushing the blame onto others will be, in the long run, devastating, no matter what the short term advantage.
Integrity is more than just being honest or trustworthy. Integrity means being true to oneself, true to one's deepest values, true to one’s conscience, dedicated to telling the truth. The benefits of integrity are ultimately both a liberating freedom and a divine blessing.
In the next blog, we’ll explore this issue of integrity as we look at Hewlett Packard’s firing of Mark Hurd.