“Honesty is the best policy” has been a longstanding cliché in the English language. Because many high profile hard-ball types betray this mantra, business people are given a bad name when it comes to integrity and honesty. Contrary to such stereotypes, many of the greatest leaders in the current wave of emerging businesses hold honesty, integrity and loyalty at the centre of their business approach.
Multibillionaire, Jon Huntsman, founder of Huntsman Chemical Company, for example, chronicles in his book “Winners Never Cheat” the principles that allowed him to grow his enterprise into the powerhouse it is while steadfastly maintaining his morals. As such he has become an icon of business integrity.
This example may not be representative of the average individual. When faced with adversity it is tempting to seek an easy escape, which often presents itself in the form of a shortcut, or more blatantly, cheating. However, pursuing this path is not sustainable. Sooner or later the principles that govern our decisions come full circle, either through direct consequence or through a deteriorating company culture.
The former has a greater impact on the individual, whereas the latter can rot a company from within, reducing morale, productivity and leadership. Without a strong, steady and predictable leader, individuals and teams will fragment and become self-serving rather than working for the overall benefit of the organization.
When this starts to happen, the risk is that dishonesty as a culture begins to reproduce and companies see increased sick days and leave days filed, breakdown of systems and less productivity as employees lose focus on the common goal.
Honesty as a culture permeates into organizational communication, teamwork, and authenticity of connection between management and their teams. Being open with your company about successes and failures may seem like a bad idea as it may seem risky to disclose too much information. While that may hold true, demonstrating trust in your teams’ ability to overcome challenges and take advantage of opportunities is a sure way to build trust and competence throughout your organization.
As headhunters, we have witnessed only too many examples of candidates whose misrepresentation, exaggeration of achievements and even their qualifications exclude them from the process right from the get go. Thorough verification will always expose dishonesty.
Beyond internal dynamics, honesty and integrity in business projects a strong reliable image to your investors, attracting financial growth and directly impacting on profitability. An honest leader is not afraid to confront the truth, and deal with the reality of a situation head on. Demonstrating clear, decsive, realistic and efficient decision making is a big draw card for investors.
Approaching communication tactfully and choosing what to make public is always sensible, but an approach of transparency will always foster trust and attract investment – both from employees through time, effort and loyalty and from investors.
In a skills short market, values of honesty and integrity are a big drawcard for the candidates that we headhunt for our client companies. While remuneration and career opportunity are key drivers, today’s top candidates are highly motivated by our clients’ strong values.
As headhunters, we also have a responsible role to play. Long term relationships are built with our client organisations through honesty and integrity. With regret, we turn down search assignments that are unlikely to yield results, protect our clients’ confidentiality at all costs, expose dishonest candidates and honor hands-off relationships with our client companies. It is this value system that has led to the partners of Executive Headlines having over 25 years’ success in the executive search industry.