I remember the first time I was x-rayed in the hospital. I had severely lacerated my hand open helping my Dad put up a new barbed wire fence on our property. Upon arrival at the hospital, the very first thing they wanted to know was before they sewed it up was is there were any broken bones. They took me to a room and had me place my hand underneath an x-ray machine that looked like a gigantic camera with a light that emitted from it. The light formed an "x" as the radiologist centered it over my hand where the wound was. I was told to hold still while they took several pictures from different angles. After I was finished, I had to wait for the film to be processed. These were the days of film and the digital revolution had not begun yet so you actually had to wait in suspense!
Once processed, I was taken to a separate room where the doctor placed my x-ray pictures on a light box showing all the inside parts of my fingers. My hand only needed a good cleansing and some stiches to close up the wound. There were no broken bones. I share this story to illustrate how we as leaders lives our lives today. In a recent conversation with a mentor of mine, we were discussing how many leadership failures there have been as of late and possible reasons why. He said something I will never forget. “Today leaders live under an x-ray machine, nothing can be hidden”. No longer can you hide compromise, infidelity, lying, or deep dark secrets for very long. Just as technology allows a doctor to see inside our bodies and what is really going on, we are living in a day and time where you can no longer hide and get away with anything. It seems there isn’t a day or week that goes by anymore that a scandal or lawsuit comes to the light about a leader who got caught in some criminal or sketchy behavior in their lives. Part of the reason for this is just as I mentioned: social media and technology. Information travels so must faster today than it did years ago. On top of that, social media has given everyday people the power to take news into their own hands and put it out there. In the past, there would be news that never got out because people didn't have the connections or resources to report it but today they do. The red tape and road blocks have been removed and now everyday people have a very powerful voice that can no longer be silenced. My aim today is not to dive deep into the abyss of how people have fallen from their positons of influence. I merely want to look how we as leaders can take action to protect our reputation, maintain our integrity, and avoid a major failure that could ruin your career and life before it's too late.
3 Ways to Guard Your Career
If you really want to protect your career, family and reputation you must live your life in transparency. Just like an x-ray machine, you must let others look into how you are leading. I am not saying you have to put all your personal business out there, but keeping an area of your business in the dark is dangerous. In today's economy leadership, you cannot afford to hide anything in regards to how you do business. Not reporting correct financials, keeping hidden agendas, treating people abusively, and bending the truth will catch up to you. Being a person of openness is paramount if you want to avoid a career derailment or set back. The hardest part of what I am saying is most leaders don’t just fall into a huge compromise. They slowly ease into it over years and years. It starts out small and they are able to hide it for a season without any problems. The stakes are not high, nobody is hurt, and no one is embarrassed. Success continues unhindered so it seems. The sad thing is, it usually doesn’t come out then. It comes out when they are promoted to a bigger position of influence, the stakes are high, and a large number of people are impacted by it. If you are a young leader, I urge you to build your business on the foundation of transparency. Do not cut corners or take a short cut. Be open. Let one or two people you really trust look into how you are doing business. Take the time to do it right even if it costs you more money and takes more time. It will guard and protect you in the long run.
The second step you must take it this: you must be held accountable for your actions. One of the most dangerous positions you can reach as a leader is to have so much power and authority that no one can hold you accountable for your actions. You see this when a leader has a bunch of “yes” people around them. I have seen this happen in business and ministry. A senior leader climbs the ladder of success over time. He sets himself up with the majority, if not all the power. There is no one who can hold him accountable. Overtime, his behaviors left unchecked will lead to a failure. When this happens, a lot of people are hurt and left to pick up the pieces. The sad thing is it could have been avoided. If the correct measures were taken to hold him accountable, the blow up could have been averted. Remember this about power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. If you are a high-level leader, don’t wait until something bad happens. Make some adjustments now. Put in place some levels of accountability with your money, how you treat others, and your family to keep you from falling or facing a very embarrassing situation down the road. In much the same way you would never buy an expensive home without properly insuring it, refuse to keep leading and living your life without accountability. Accountability is like purchasing insurance for your career and reputation. It doesn’t keep bad things from happening necessarily but it will lower the costs you have to pay when you do encounter setbacks in life or if something bad does happen your recovery will be much quicker.
Pride can destroy a leader. What has taken years to build can be brought down in a moment because of pride. To guard against pride ask yourself this question: What are you doing to cultivate the virtue of humility in your life? I am not talking about being weak or spineless. Most people view humility as a weakness. Real humility is a strength. It keeps the ego in check and on a leash. One way pride manifests itself is how a leader talk Pride can destroy a leader. What has taken years to build can be brought down in a moment because of pride. To guard against pride ask yourself this question: What are you doing to cultivate the virtue of humility in your life? I am not talking about being weak or spineless. Most people view humility as a weakness. Real humility is a strength. It keeps the ego in check and on a leash. One way pride manifests itself is how a leader talks to and treats people. Humble leaders treat people with respect no matter what position they are in. Prideful leaders treat the “higher ups” much different than those underneath them. Do you talk to and treat the janitor with the same respect and value as you do the president of the company? Be honest with yourself. Do you look down on those lower in rank than you? If so, you have over time become prideful because of your high position. If left unchecked, it will lead to other behaviors setting you up for a fall.
In closing, realize that as leaders we are living in a different time today. You cannot hide anything. If there is anything you have to hide, that is a red flag in your leadership that must be addressed. You may be able to hide it for a while but it eventually will be found out. Like my hand I cut open that day helping my Dad, allow a trusted advisor to "x-ray" your leadership and see if there is anything broken! People will be a lot more forgiving if you are honest about a problem on the front In closing, realize that as leaders we are living in a different time today. You cannot hide anything. If there is anything you have to hide, that is a red flag in your leadership that must be addressed. You may be able to hide it for a while but it eventually will be found out. Like my hand I cut open that day helping my Dad, allow a trusted advisor to "x-ray" your leadership and see if there is anything broken! It will keep you from a lot of pain in the long run and save your career.