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Trust is a key element of effective leadership and honesty is essential to build that trust.

If you were asked to rate yourself on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is extremely honest, what score would you give yourself?

What elements of honesty make up your self-assessment?  Did you rate how honest you are with your direct reports?  The extent of information you share?  What you’ll tell a complete stranger? Did you consider how honest you are with yourself?

It’s common to focus on how honest we are with the people around us, our external relationships; however, to be truly honest with others, we must start with ourselves.

The internal relationship is the most important, but it can also be the hardest. I’ll never forget witnessing one individual’s brave proclamation that they weren’t being truly honest with themselves.  The group was discussing the importance of honesty in building trust. This person shared that if they were going to be honest, they first needed to be truthful with themselves and noted that while they told themselves they were happy, if they were being honest, they were not happy.

What a profound moment – witnessing that brave revelation. It was an instant of personal growth: that admission spurred this person to make changes toward realizing greater happiness. That increased happiness and greater honesty will help them to be a more trusted and effective leader.

Do you regularly take time to think about how truthful you’re being with yourself? You are not alone, if you said “no.” If you want to become more honest with yourself, it’s important to create an environment that feels safe and supportive.  You may want to consider:

  • Finding an empathetic, non-judgmental individual to guide you through the process. This may be a trusted friend or colleague. You may feel more comfortable with someone at arm’s length, like a coach.
  • Scheduling time for self-reflection and including time for follow-up self-care.
  • Finding a place away from home and work to think.
  • Starting slow and incrementally. Think “something (and you choose the something) hurts and I need to stop denying that it isn’t affecting me” as opposed to “I need to completely overhaul my life!”

Learning to be honest with yourself may be one of the most difficult things you will ever do. However, you will find that it is worth the effort; you will be a happier person and a more effective, productive leader.