A culture of honesty explains why organizations experience and sustain a high level of success.  Leaders create and maintain this culture.

The best leaders are very open to the idea that they got it wrong and can do better.  When something goes wrong, they look at themselves first.  They engage in rigorous, honest, and continuous self-examination.  We cannot be honest with others or expect them to be truthful unless we are first honest with ourselves.

They surround themselves with those who tell them the truth. They want to hear it and they are grateful to be told where they can improve so they can and do. Honesty from your team is real loyalty.

The worst leaders are convinced they’re always right. No one can always be right. They don’t want to hear they can improve. They think others make all the mistakes and they make none.

They don’t want to hear the truth. They surround themselves with those who tell them what they want to hear. There’s no honesty or genuine loyalty in either direction.  No new ideas are ever heard.

Be the leader who seeks the truth about yourself, listens, and continually improves. Be the leader who admits mistakes in front of others. Your openness and vulnerability builds trust and loyalty.  It helps create and sustain the right culture.

Everyone needs to be free to fail and fail up.  Mistakes are OK.  Mistakes are normal, natural, and predictable.  We all make them.  It’s how we learn and grow. The focus is to not repeat the same mistake.

Everyone needs to feel safe to speak.  As Commander Abrashoff (2002) notes, “If the leader is messing up, he or she needs to be told.”  Surround yourself with truth-tellers. Everyone should be able to offer suggestions and ideas on how to improve.

Secrecy is stupid. We don’t want people hiding problems or fearful to speak.  We want competing ideas – we never know from whom the best ideas will come.

Teams thrive on trust.  Trust generates loyalty.  Trust produces performance.   Trust is responsible for innovation.

An honest leader, a trusted team, and a healthy culture are critical to long term success.