This is the fourth in a series of articles on the A-B C’s of Leadership, outlining the characteristics for effective leadership.
“Only recently a prominent public man was criticized throughout the newspaper world as not having enough character to keep his promises. He had not the stamina to make good when to do so proved difficult. He hadn’t the timber, the character fiber to stand up and do the thing he knew what was right, and that he had promised to do. The world is full of these jelly-fish people who have not lime enough in their backbone to stand erect to do the right thing. They are always stepping into the spotlight in the good intention stage, and then, when the reckoning time comes, taking the line of least resistance, doing the thing which will cast the least effect on money regardless of later consequences. They think they can be as unscrupulous about breaking promises as they were about making them. But sooner or later fate makes us play fair or get out of the game.”
One hundred years after this was written by Orison Swett Marden in Making Life a Masterpiece, Boris Johnston and Nigel Farage, the main players in the Brexit debacle, got out of the game because they are “jelly fish people who have not lime enough … to stand up to do the right thing” and fix what they broke.
Someone once defined being dependable as, “it means that I do what I have said I would do when I said I would do it and in the best way I can.” I assert that this is too narrow a definition which was validated when I asked a number of people – ‘What do you consider the most important characteristic in others?’ Dependability outranked all of the others I highlight in this series of articles, by a huge margin. In probing this further I have found that, people view those who they consider dependable as also being, not only true to their word but; consistently loyal, empathetic, honest, reliable and responsible.
Sadly, when asked to identify at least five people (either people they know or know about) who they consider dependable, under the broader definition, most could not go beyond two people. This, I assert, is why I am experiencing the discontent in society today.
When I asked these same people whether others would describe them as being dependable, most responded with a qualifier – “depends on who you ask?” This question prompted many to volunteer that the different environments in which they live, work, learn play and worship influences how they behave and therefore how they are perceived. This reinforces the notion that we become products of our environment. Another major influence is having been disappointed by those they have entrusted with their confidence, causing them to be cynical, and distrustful of almost all they have to interact with or should be able to count on. Also for many, these negative experiences are used as rationalizations for their being undependable. This dynamic has normalized undependability and is giving rise to the various revolutionary forces I see playing out in almost every segment of our society.
I assert that the world would be a much better place if the golden rule – ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’, became more than just something that is recited in elementary school. This ethic of reciprocity should become a standard by which all are measured and entrenched in our cultures.
A starting point for this should be self reflection on how dependable you are by asking to what extent do you:
- over promise and under deliver?
- arrive late or are a no show?
- indicate you will get back to someone and don’t?
- reach out to someone you know is having difficulty?
- become a bystander vs being a witness, defender or resistor when someone is wronged?
- turn on people because of political or social pressures?
- take unethical or illegal actions to achieve something?
- overcharge clients, customers and employers?
- exploit employees, family members and friends?
- deflect your mistakes to others?
- take credit for what others have done?
- sabotage the work of others?
- discredit others?
- not fix something you broke?
- make fun of others?
- assess people based on subjectivity, ambiguity and bigotry?
- rely on your religion to gain trust and credibility?
- suck up and kick down?
- cover something up?
It’s a rare soul who could honestly answer never to all of these questions, however based on people I asked who could not even come up with two people they considered dependable, it is safe to assume the majority of people, if they were honest with themselves would have to answer in the affirmative to many.
The next step is to ask yourself ‘When I am on the receiving end of these actions and behaviors – how would I like it?’ Unless you are a totally narcissistic psychopath, the answer should be: I HATE IT WHEN SOMEONE DOES THAT!!!!!
The third step is to establish a personal covenant, golden rules to guide your comments, actions and behaviors in every point of contact with others.
The Golden Rules
- Meet or exceed what is expected of you.
- Be accountable and take responsibility.
- Don’t compromise on your values and beliefs.
- Be respectful, open, honest, fair and direct in all of your interactions.
- Be kind, sensitive, empathetic, compassionate and supportive.
- Be a witness, defender and resistor vs a bystander when someone is wronged.
- Listen to and hear other points of view.
- Obey the laws of the land, established codes of conduct and terms of engagement.
- Embrace those who others shun.
- Minimize the negatives and accentuate the positives.
- Share your successes and celebrate the success of others.
- Be charitable to all.
- Fix what you break.
- Be loyal to your family, friends, coworkers and employers.
- Expose wrongdoing.
- Understand that “Right makes Might”.
- Understand how your comments, actions, behaviors and decisions might negatively impact others.
- Understand how those you interact with feel.
The plight of refugees, and various positions being taken on relief, immigration, nationalism and protectionism, really puts to test how dependable we are as nations and individuals. There is a deep divide descending on us, which unabated, has the potential of destroying our moral fibre and ultimately our freedom. We are bystanders to repeating the events in the early thirties with the rise of Nazism and McCarthyism in the early fifties. This can and must be abated.
I believe that if the majority of our citizens step back from how they feel, gain the benefit of the feelings of others and apply what we learned as children – ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ – we can and will change the course of history.