Leadership must start with honesty
by Jim Ruth Bradley County Sheriff
Oct 20, 2013 | 1137 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jim Ruth
Jim Ruth
Of all the qualities expected of a leader the “character” quality consistently shows up at the top of the list. Honesty is always at the very top. (Honesty also tops the list of desired traits in a mate.)

I’m sure I could think of several people in my life who consistently showed this quality of character. The first person who came to my mind that made a real impression on me was Principal Woodrow Wilson. He was at Mayfield Elementary for as long as I can remember. I attended there, as did my five brothers and my sister.

You could rely on what Wilson told you as always being the truth. He was as good as his word. I learned that over a short time period. He was tough, but fair. He definitely cared about the best for all the students.

Many times his care meant a good paddling. I found that out my first day of the first grade. The teacher left the room and he caught me acting up, so I got a good paddling. I deserved it. He let me know that there was more of that if I acted up. After several times being paddled by him, I realized that he carried through with his promises.

Those whippings that he and a few other teachers gave me in elementary school and junior high helped make an honest, straightforward guy out of me. I still josh sometimes with one of my teachers when I see him that he straightened me out and helped me from getting in real trouble.

Best-selling leadership authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner say “before anyone is willing to follow you or any other leader he wants to know that you are honest, forward looking, inspiring and competent.” In other words, before you can expect someone to trust your judgments or accept your guidance you are expected to be truthful and trustworthy.

This is certainly the case in the field of law enforcement.

You could not expect someone to follow you in risky situations or in harm’s way if you have had trouble telling the truth.

I’ve said we must have a vision for the future. People that follow your lead must believe you have a clear view of where you are going.

We are working to develop leaders who can lead now and into the future with well-thought-out plans to keep our community safe for this generation and for the next.

We have challenged our leaders to encourage and inspire others to be at their best in work and appearance, reaching higher and achieving more.

Competence is not something you can just say you have, people readily know if you do or not. It’s a reputation for getting things done the right way. Others must believe in you and realize that you know what you are doing.

It’s beyond talking, you must know what you’re talking about!

These qualities are not without cost. Being honest means being honest to yourself, never caving in to opinions or ideas for political expediency which are wrong or unethical.

Being forward-looking means taking the effort and time to get others to share in a vision for the future. Many people are locked into “now” or just getting by for the moment. To inspire others we must really care about getting everyone on board, so they’ll buy into a plan that’s good for all.

Competency in leadership is not only a record of personal achievement; it is the ability to bring out the leadership qualities and abilities of others.

So good leadership costs something. It is not just lip service. It means tough decisions, striving for the best input and then doing he right thing though sometimes it costs relationships.

I agree with the old Irish statesman, Mr. Burke — never intending to go beyond promises, hypocrisy cost nothing. Good leadership and good law enforcement take hard work, but it is good, fulfilling work.

Thanks for reading.