3 Ways to Avoid a Bad Leadership Reputation

By Lee Ellis

During his time as a political prisoner in the gulag of the Soviets, Alexander Solzhenitsyn came to a radical but revealing conclusion about the human problem of corruption and dis-honorable behavior –

“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not between states, nor between classes nor between political parties, but right through every human heart, through all human hearts.” [Tweet This]

Faithful Guardian Companions

If you’re honest with yourself, you realize that he’s right in that we’re all vulnerable to this issue in our quest to be honorable leaders. That’s why accountability is so important. Accountability is the guardian companion of honor. It helps us keep our commitments, diligently perform our duties, and live by the values we proclaim. It can keep us from drifting off course and perhaps most importantly help us correct back quickly when we do drift.

In my most recent book, I zero in on the core components of the Courageous Accountability Model™—Character, Courage, and Commitment.

The Three C’s

Character provides the ideal and expected values and associated behaviors that will enable us to live and lead with honor. We laid out the seven core behaviors of character and call it the Honor Code. Almost everyone would agree to these basic tenets in the Honor Code; but when we reflect honestly on our personal experience, we know they are very difficult to keep. Given the right circumstances, this knowledge of duty—of right and wrong—can be rationalized and ignored. We need courage to keep us on track.

Courage is essential to living up to our character ideas. Without it, we will fold when faced with difficult choices. Winston Churchill once commented that –

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities…because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” [Tweet This]

Without courage, we’ll not be able to live up to our desired character values—doubts and fears will take us out and we’ll fold under pressure. We must always be ready to counteract our weakness by employing the Courage Challenge—that is, leaning into your doubts and fears to do what you know is right, even when it feels unnatural, unsafe, or uncomfortable. Following this path requires an extreme commitment.

Commitment is like an ever-present mirror that reminds us of our vows, our obligations, our loyalties, and our duties. We cannot look aside and pretend we don’t notice that we’re violating our character. Commitment reflects back as a reminder of who we are and what we stand for.

Getting Daily Results 

Most of us recognize that good character is the foundation of leadership because it is fundamental to trust—which is the currency of leadership. However, the problem comes when we just assume that we have good character—as almost everyone does. But it can’t be assumed. Rather, it must be evidenced through daily courage and commitment when:

  • decisions are hard.
  • vulnerability is required.
  • reliability is needed.
  • execution of responsibility is essential.
  • fear of failure creeps in.
  • ambiguity and uncertainty develop.
  • we want to stand up for what we know is right—even when risks are involved.

These and many more situations are always hard. It is sound character that counsels and guides us as we face the challenges of leadership. Leaders are held to a higher standard and that challenge is compounded because we’re trying to balance our own self-interests, the public good of our people, and our personal imperfections.

The Basis for Accountability

Our ability to be accountable and to hold others accountable comes down to the core of our identity—as evidenced in our character, courage, and commitment. Now is a good time to take a hard look at our core. Will it facilitate accountability and serve as the guardian companion for your honor?

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The Complete Model for Courageous Accountability

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“…Ellis demonstrates that this difference comes from having the character and courage to do the right thing. A must read for all leaders.” – Dr. J. Phillip London, Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board – CACI International Inc

“I believe our country is at one of the most crucial periods in our entire history. Lee’s book represents an important ‘instruction manual’ for righting the ship.” – Bob Littell, Chief NetWeaver – NetWeaving International & The Enrichment Co.




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