“Whenever you do a thing,” said Thomas Jefferson, “act as if all the world were watching.” That is a critical leadership lesson for managers and business leaders (and one that Anthony Weiner clearly has yet to learn).
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And in today’s digital world, often all the world IS watching. Current events don’t let us forget this, and we’re suddenly aware of how much our concepts of privacy have changed in recent years. Even putting aside possible surveillance, most of us leave a constant trail of data in the wake of our everyday lives. Through social media, we’ve grown accustomed to broadcasting details of what we’re reading, where we’re going, what we’re doing, who we’re with, even what we’re eating.
But you also generate data every time you buy something with plastic, download an e-book, visit an ATM, send or read an e-mail or text, make a call, log on to a website, or just turn on your cell phone and carry it with you. Maybe you’re comfortable with that, maybe not, but you have to go pretty far off the grid to avoid it.
There are questions that often are an unspoken subtext to these thoughts and discussions: How aligned are my public and private lives? How important is integrity to me?
We all deserve, and expect, an appropriate degree of privacy at home and work. And we all have things we’d rather keep to ourselves. But if there are areas of your life where the possibility of discovery leaves you feeling queasy—especially if you’re in a leadership position—this might be a good moment to ask yourself what integrity calls you to do.
Are there "Business Practices" that you wouldn’t want your family to know about? Are there significant amounts of money or time going to things that are contrary to your values? Neglect of important responsibilities? Any of these might mean that it’s time for some serious work in changing your path.
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On the other hand, it may be your public perception that needs adjustment. Leaders sometimes force themselves to conform to an image of what they think people expect. If your employees or colleagues know an entirely different you than your friends or family, maybe it’s time for them to begin seeing the "real you."
Remember these four things about INTEGRITY.
No. 1: People follow people of integrity.
No. 2: Leaders and companies with integrity have fewer crises than those without.
No. 3: People don't often quit on organizations, but they do quit on people.
No. 4: A person of integrity knows the right thing, says the right thing, and does the right thing.
Know who you are and what you believe in. Be consistent. If you make a mistake, take responsibility for it. When you align your public and private selves, your behavior and your values, when you’re being fueled by integrity rather than drained by a balancing act, that’s when you can be most effective as a leader—whether anyone is watching or not.
Jeremy Kingsley is a professional speaker, best-selling author, and the President of OneLife Leadership. Jeremy holds bachelors and masters degrees from Columbia International University. He is the author of four books, his latest is titled: Inspired People Produce Results (McGraw Hill 2013). Jeremy lives in Columbia, South Carolina with his wife and two sons.