Hand writing Truth with red marker between many Lies on transparent wipe board.

As national elections loom, debates among top contenders are imminent. Once campaigns heat up, its not uncommon to hear accusations of lying, cheating, and stealing, with members of each major political party pointing the finger at their opponents.

It’s our responsibility as the voting public to seek out the facts, discover the truth, and vote our conscience. Sometimes we’re successful in discovering the truth and other times we remain deceived. But the one person who always knows where the truth lies is the leader him or her self. Regardless of the arena–political, academic, corporate, or religious–at some point, all leaders must look in the mirror and confront the truth about themselves and their actions.

My dad died a few years ago and, following his funeral, my brother Bob took over his insurance agency. Under the glass top on Dad’s desk, Bob found a heavily yellowed copy of The Guy in the Glass, a poem written in 1934 by Dale Wimbrow. The poem took on a life of it’s own years ago, even to the point of others taking credit for having written it, which is interesting given that the poem deals with integrity. In the rare event you haven’t read it, please read on.

The Guy in the Glass
When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.

For it isn’t your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Whose judgement upon you must pass.
The feller whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.

He’s the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear up to the end,
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and “chisel” a plum,
And think you’re a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

You can fool the whole world down that pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you’ve cheated the guy in the glass.

Wimbrow understood the correlation between honesty and self-respect, but he wasn’t quite right when he wrote, “You can fool the whole world….” That’s not been my experience, and I’ll bet it hasn’t been yours either — at work or at home.

There isn’t much your kids don’t know about you, and if you’re not who you profess to be, when your kids become teens, they’ll call you out! If they detect any phoniness, hypocricy, or dishonesty of any kind, you’ll hear about it. If you don’t inform the clerk who gave you too much change or return to the store to pay for items missed, your kids know about it. If you gossip about others or betray a friend’s confidence, your kids know about it. Kids can spot a phoney, a cheat, or a liar a hundred miles way. And, so can the people with whom you work.

If you don’t fulfill on your promises, people know it. If you snack on the job, use company materials for your personal use, take extended lunch breaks, pad your expense account, use company time to pay your bills or search the Internet for vacation spots, guaranteed, people know it. If you don’t keep your word or if you bad-mouth those you supervise, people know it. If you fail to give credit where due, invade people’s privacy, or blame others to cover up your own mistakes, people know it. But perhaps best (or worst) of all – fake, phoney, or honest – you know it.

Successful leaders simply don’t operate that way. Successful leaders are driven by their conscience, that moral law within that knows the difference between right and wrong, true and false, honest and dishonest. They live by a sense of fairness, honesty, respect and contribution that transcends time and culture, and is self-evident.

At home or in business, you know if you tell the truth, keep your promises, honor your commitments, and deal honestly and fairly with others. You also know if you are duplicitous and dishonest.

At the luncheon that followed my dad’s funeral, members of the overflowing crowd reiterated the fact that our father was a born-leader, a man of integrity who lived his life based on principles that reflected a higher standard. People knew it, they trusted him, and sought his leadership. In the end, it is safe to say that the man in the glass was my father’s friend, just as it is sure to be for any leader, formal or informal, who leads by moral authority that comes from living a life of honesty, a life of integrity.

Be your own best coach. Answer the following questions:

  • Do I keep my promises, fulfill on commitments, and deal honestly with others If not, why not? What price am I paying for a breach in honesty?
  • In what area(s) of my life is there room for improvement? If I were to “close the gap,” what would the impact be on me? On others? On my organizations (or family)?
  • What would I need to do to fulfill on a sincere desire to chose honesty over habit?

Albert Einstein once wrote, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” When you look into the mirror, is the guy (or gal) in the glass your friend? Respected leaders can honestly answer, “Yes.”

If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please take a moment to share now.

Comments are welcome.

(c) 2012, revised 2015  Mary Jane Mapes  All right reserved.

To learn more about leadership/communication strategist, professional speaker, and executive coach, Mary Jane Mapes, visit her websites now:

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