Golden Rule Of Leadership #3 – Honesty

Values and mindset are the foundations of Leadership behaviours. Honesty is key in creating an environment and culture of mutual trust and respect. The knowledge that those we have responsibility for, rely upon us as Leaders to keep them safe is a grave responsibility.

In my police career, there were circumstances where members of the team were in harm’s way because of decisions that were taken by me. Dynamic Risk Assessments provide a methodology to mitigate Risk but cannot eradicate it entirely. Pre-planned Operations followed the IIMARCH Structure (Information, Intention, Method, Administration, Risk, Communications, Human Rights and other legal issues).

Honesty pervades Leadership decisions and behaviours across the board. It is not merely inconsistent to exhibit honesty in some respects but not others, it is highly corrosive to the trust that ensures team cohesion.

The ability to harness honesty should be considered a significant strength. Honesty not just in terms of relating to subject or matter, but in self honesty and the way ethical and integral behaviour is mirrored.

Honesty in all our interactions with each other is vitally important.

Whenever I had to impart information or decisions, I was conscious of the need to deliver the message clearly and unequivocally truthfully. Any failure on my part to do so was disrespectful to the person(s) concerned, and the wider audience that would hear about it.

Reputation is like a first impression on meeting someone. Once experienced, it can never be rebuilt. Reputation is what people say about you when you are not there.

Similarly, for myself. whenever I had the misfortune to meet a duplicitous colleague, once I had realised their value set, I discounted them as an authentic colleague. They became, ‘virtual persons’ who were disengaged from the operational reality. They were not to be trusted. In the instances of duplicitous colleagues who were more senior to me, they were regarded with withering contempt. They were ‘virtual Leaders’ who existed in their own delusional ‘bubble’. Colleagues can always smell insincerity. It may appear on the surface as a form of perfection, neatly set out or packaged, but once that bubble bursts what oozes out is dishonesty. Dishonesty not only stinks but it is highly infectious.

It is rare in Policing, for Leaders to rely on their rank to effect actions. My direct experience was that where they did these persons were, indeed, ‘virtual Leaders’. Invariably, they were sad people, who had, by their duplicity, excluded themselves, from that which is best about organisations, authentic human interactions and honest feedback.

People do not like to be taken for granted or treated as fools. In the end dishonesty fools no-one.

The consequences of a lack of honesty in Leaders, can be felt across organisations and amongst the people. Glossy Mission Statements on the organisation/company website or premises which loudly proclaim (that) ‘ People are our greatest asset’ when Leadership is dishonest, run a significant risk of facilitating the development of a toxic culture. People do not like to be taken for granted or treated as fools. In the end dishonesty fools no-one. Colleagues may not inevitably like honesty but they will trust and respect it. When there is a task to be undertaken, an order to follow, an action to pursue, respect and trust trumps whether the action is popular or not Conversely, honest Leadership, which lives and breathes the Values indicated in that Mission Statement, reinforces a positive, performance minded culture.

Dishonest Leadership in an organisation or company, results in poor performance, disengaged teams and people, a lowering of morale, increased sickness rates, stress, and absenteeism. Good people will read the signs, and act accordingly. They will leave your business, and this impacts directly upon your Brand, and, the quality of customer service. It becomes a downward spiral of negativity. Remember, they will go elsewhere and though you may never encounter them again, they will impact upon your wider reputation forever.

The business costs of stress induced by poor Leadership behaviours are considerable. In the UK, in 2017, statistics from the Health and Safety Executive indicate the following:

  • Cost of Staff Turnover, £2.4 Billion
  • Cost of sickness absence, £8.4 Billion
  • Cost of reduced productivity at work, £15.1 Billion

What are the costs to your organisation or company? Doing nothing is an option, but not one which you wish to consider.


Alternatively: what are the risks to your company for failing to take the actions that will mitigate these risks? How would effective leadership coaching and mentoring benefit yourself and your company? What are your priorities to resolve the challenges that you find?

I look forward to speaking to you as first step.


Tony Munday
Tony Munday
TONY developed his expertise during his Police career of 34 years. Whilst a Senior Leader, for 15 years, he recognised the challenges and pressures faced by Leaders, including those which were of his own making. Tony was a ‘maverick ‘as a Leader. He became accredited in, and practiced, coaching as a Leadership Style, and Situational Leadership (adopt a style relevant and appropriate to the context). This was unusual amongst colleagues and peers, who maintained a firm adherence to a ‘command and control’ style, on most occasions. Tony recognised that it was impossible for him to effectively lead and micromanage. In order to develop appropriate trust and motivation amongst those he had responsibility for, he ensured that he knew the person behind the role. This enabled Tony to effectively performance manage, with fairness. Where appropriate, Tony practiced a ‘service’ style of Leadership. He saw his role, as providing the strategic direction, the environment, setting the values and developing the people, so they took responsibility for delivery of their own and other’s performance. The subsequent trust gained, enabled Tony to save significant time compared to peers who micromanaged. Tony used this time on strategic planning and development of people, enabling them to maximise their potential, including out of his teams or departments. This was unique amongst his peers. Many peers behaved as if the first responsibility of their team was to make ‘them’ look good. This stifled development of their teams. Tony’s teams and departments consistently outperformed their contemporaries.

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