Proverbs tells us “If you do the right thing, honesty will be your guide. But if you are crooked, you will be trapped by your own dishonesty.” (1) Isn’t that true? If you are dishonest, to keep up the farce, you need to continue to be dishonest and are eventually found out, trapped in your lies and deceit. Jesus knew how dishonesty works. He spoke against the darkness that is dishonesty. Matthew 10: 26 “Don’t be afraid of anyone! Everything [that] is hidden will be found out, and every secret will be known.” (2)
I think most people want to be known as honest. In leadership it is EXTREMELY important to be honest. In the Lead Like Jesus blog, we read, “Honesty is the single most important “building block” in the leader-follower relationship.” (3) Synonyms for honesty are uprightness, righteousness, integrity, morality, scrupulousness and so on. (4) So you could say ‘Righteousness is the single most important building block…’; ‘Integrity is the single most important building block’…or ‘Morality is the single most important building block…’ How do you define honesty? Are there any lines in the sand you won’t cross in the name of honesty?
Honesty is a quality that we think we can split hairs around…dance around it. Like “little white lies,” or hedging the truth, leaving the recipient of the message with a totally different impression of what you communicated.
Many years ago I asked a man I met and was considering dating this question, “Are you married?” He answered no. However, that was only part of the story. He was divorced with two children. He was technically being honest, but he was honest without full disclosure. And getting caught in that is similar to being caught in a full lie: the loss of trust and therefore the destruction of the building block.
In leadership, people want to trust the person they are following. If you are dishonest, it will (not can, but will) damage the relationship you have with your followers. They will fear they are being painted with the same brush of dishonesty for which you are known, thus damaging their reputation. And nobody wants that. “No matter what the setting, everyone wants to be fully confident in their leaders, and to be fully confident they have to believe that their leaders are people of strong character and solid integrity.” (5)
Jesus was very honest with His followers. He never glossed over the difficulties, and graces, that would occur for followers if they followed The Way. “Before all this happens, you will be arrested and punished. You will be tried in your synagogues and put in jail. Because of me you will be placed on trial before kings and governors.” (6) And yet people followed him. Why? Because truthfulness begets courage and loyalty. Ask any coach, battlefield commander or parent. They know this is true.
That old saying from Benjamin Franklin, “Honesty is the best policy” holds true for leadership. Be honest, truthful, upright, clear. No dancing around honesty. What will honesty from leadership make possible? What will honesty in service to the mission look like? Is honesty what your leadership needs to lead toward the vision? I think that’s what Jesus would want.
(1) Proverbs 11:3, Contemporary English Version Bible
(2) Matthew 10: 26, Contemporary English Version Bible
(4) Merriam-Webster dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/honesty
(6) Luke 21:12, Contemporary English Version Bible