To be a leader, to be able to influence people, they must be able to trust you.
And to be trustworthy, you need to Major in the Minor Things
If you consistently do what’s right in the little things, you’re less likely to wander off course morally or ethically.
I opened for Sherron Watkins at the True North Leadership Conference a few years ago and was able to spend a bit of time with her. Sherron is most famous as the whistle blower at Enron as outlined in her book, Power Failure. I asked how things could get so far out of hand before anyone noticed. She said, ” It doesn’t start with millions of dollars Greg. It starts with the little things. It starts with a two martini lunch. Then a padded expense account, and it just grows from there.”
When I started performing as a magician I learned a lot from video tapes. (Yes, I’m that old.) Magicians would share their tricks of the trade with other magicians on these tapes. Occasionally, I would borrow a tape from a friend as they were quite expensive. Sometimes my friends would make a copy for me instead of leading me the original.
One day as I looked at my shelves with these tapes on them, it hit me that this was stealing. I took all my copies and tossed them away. Some people consider this a grey area, not unlike copying music. The original still exists and you didn’t take anything from anybody. So, it isn’t stealing. Wrong. It is stealing because I have something I didn’t pay for.
When I served on Morden Town Council, the RCMP did an audit of our local Police Force. The whole council got a copy of the report to read. When news of the report got out, I was asked what was in it. I replied that it was confidential.
Then I asked others on council how they had responded to these questions. I was told that they just said that they hadn’t seen the report. All of them had read the report but it was easier for them to lie about it. That would have been an easy answer for me too I suppose but there was a small problem. I HAD read the report. And I couldn’t just say that I had not read it.
A little white lie is still a lie.
Theft is theft-whether it’s $1, $1,000, or $1 million. Or even a bootleg copy of a video.
“The respect that leadership must have requires that one’s ethics be without question. A leader not only stays above the line between right and wrong, he stays well clear of the gray areas.”
— G. Alan Bernard