5 Ways to Lead with Honesty and Why Should You Do It

A business leader needs to lead with honest answers at all times. However, this is much easier said than done, as you can imagine.

Leadership styles: Elon Musk & Mark Zuckerberg

Consider someone like Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, and SpaceX. He likes to do things his own way, and the result is that there have been many clashes with employees and the media.

He recently noted that he should have used better language when dealing with the issue of employee safety, and just days later he criticized the media for "fake news."

One word to describe Elon Musk is honest. He is known for being honest and straightforward with the media, which is great for him. He doesn't try to play games or make excuses. He gives his honest opinion. He doesn't hide behind ambiguous or misleading statements, as some do. He is a leader that leads with honesty.

Including his open-source approach to change the future with more minds, not keeping things secret. A relevant indicator of an honest personality. 

Then there is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has been accused of playing dumb in regards to the Cambridge Analytica scandal and has been said to have crafted a positive PR campaign regarding the incident, leading to accusations that he has been less than forthcoming with the truth.

In both cases, Elon Musk and Zuckerberg, both are doing their job, but they have faced public criticism for it. That's unavoidable. 

The good news is that honesty works well in the long run and also with memory, you don’t have to memorize your lies.

Here are five reasons why you should lead with honesty:

  1. Being a role model

One of the most effective ways to influence your team is to show them how to be the best version of themselves. It's incredibly important to communicate the value of honesty in the workplace. If you're leading with honesty and integrity, people are more likely to follow. And your team's collective engagement can catapult your company to the next level of success. 

  1. Motivation

Why should people believe in you? Are you a role model? Do you lead with honesty? Do you want to bring out the best in them? All three of these things will contribute to the motivation your team needs to be successful.

  1. Safety

A strong team is what's most important to your success. Honest communication creates trust, which creates safety and a common, beneficial goal that everyone can rally around.

  1. People need to know what's going on

You're a leader. You need to be transparent and give people the information they need to do their jobs, and also be involved in the decision-making process. 

  1. They're more open to risk and innovate

When people feel safe and know the stakes are low, they're much more open to taking risks and innovation at heart.


The more people trust and admire you, the better chance your company has of achieving the success it desires.

So, what can you do to lead with honesty?

Here are 5 tips to help you lead with honesty in business:

  1. Don't lie or mislead

No one can be trusted 100% of the time, but lying and misleading your employees is usually not in the best interests of the company. Even if it's just for your own self-interest.

Lying erodes trust. For leaders, credibility is everything and lying is simply the kryptonite that destroys a team’s trust for their leader. People typically can sense when they’re not getting the full truth. We have that sensor and even if we are not conscious our actions reflect that. 

  1. Look at everything you say

If something isn't accurate or true, be honest about it, and apologize. No one is perfect, and you need to expect that mistakes will be made. If they are due to your own carelessness, own up to it and apologize. Owning your mistakes is a sign of maturity and growth.

  1. Be accountable for everything

One of the best traits of a leader is accountability. Everyone has responsibilities, and everyone is held accountable for those responsibilities. Don't shirk accountability, as it signals distrust in your employees.

If you refuse to admit you’ve done something wrong as a leader and won’t take accountability for failure, others will begin to resent you.

  1. Listen to your employees

Very often, employees won't say something to you in confidence if they don't trust you. So be open and receptive to their comments. If they are wrong or you don't agree with what they have to say, don't punish them, acknowledge their courage to test things, do things, then help them learn from those experiences. 

Listening to employees, you might think, is a no-brainer. But, when you look deeper, you probably will be surprised at how little listening happens in today’s workplace.

In a recent poll of professional workers in the U.S. and Canada, a whopping 64% of the 675 workers polled, agreed that “leaders making decisions without seeking input,” was their biggest problem. Active listening starts within your ranks, and when nurtured, will branch out to your employees.

  1. Be transparent

Transparency in leadership means keeping your employees in the loop, sharing the good and the bad (while not oversharing). There should be no unpleasant surprises, no concerns around uncertainty, and no wishy-washy behavior that may weaken your reputation.

Be candid, open, and even-keel when presenting an issue that your organization or team is facing. People deserve to know what is going on.

By practicing honest, transparent leadership, you are setting yourself up as a leader that others want to follow.


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