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Effective Leadership Must Be Earned Through Honesty And Integrity

Effective Leadership Must Be Earned Through Honesty And Integrity

Nino Tesoriero (main photo) is chief counsel at creative communications agency, Ogilvy PR. In this guest post, Tesoriero references the agency’s new believability index which researches key attributes of believability, arguing honesty and integrity are must-haves for all leaders, political or otherwise…

The next federal election will be a believability test like no other. Yes, past campaigns have asked voters to decide who they trust most. But this one will be different after the French President openly accused our Prime Minister of being a liar.

To some degree, we tolerate leaders who are flexible with the facts and bend the truth when they feel they need to. But lying is next level. If accusations like that stick, they break the bonds of shared values, trust and respect. They make us question the validity of anything that person says.

It’s no surprise the opposition has seized on this diplomatic incident. They have since labelled the PM the ‘liar from the Shire’ and will no doubt drive that message hard until election day. Other critics of the government are piling on too, highlighting examples where they say Scott Morrison has not told the truth.

When pressed in a radio interview on whether he was worried about the lying claims, Morrison said he wasn’t because he was making the “right decisions” on defence and that a leader shouldn’t be in the PM’s job if they couldn’t deal with the sledges.

Before we look at the implications here, let’s not forget how former US President Donald Trump’s distortion of the facts only served to harden the resolve of his fanbase. The bigger the fantasy, the easier it became for him to believe, promote and make it stick. As Seinfeld’s George Costanza said, “it’s not a lie if you believe it.”

So the question is, do Australians really care if our leaders are labelled liars, or do we accept lying as an unavoidable part of getting things done?

What makes a leader believable?

As an agency obsessed with making every story matter, we recently looked into this. Our second Believability Index, out this month, has been developed from a survey of more than 1,000 Australians. We explored the key attributes that, in combination, help us decide if a leader is believable or not.

We found that factual correctness and integrity – two essential elements of truth telling – were the most important attributes. Providing accurate and factually correct information was the highest scoring attribute at 65 per cent.

This was followed by integrity at 53 per cent, showing that people look for a leader with strong principles who is driven by an ethical compass. A believable leader needs to be relatable and in touch with the issues that matter to people, which is why relevance scored highly at 51 per cent.

Commitment, where a leader has the community’s best interest at heart, scored lower at 44 per cent. This is worth noting in the context of the Prime Minister stating he was less worried about the lying claims because he was ultimately making what he believes were the right decisions for the country. Also, at 44 per cent was the importance of follow-through and delivery of priorities. Shared values and affinity came in much lower at 33 per cent and 32 per cent respectively.

These findings shine a light on the key elements leaders need to focus on. The results show that our perception of whether a leader is factual matters for twice as many people as whether we relate to them. This may come as a surprise when you consider the emphasis the media and others place on a leader’s charisma and personality.

Clearly there are many considerations that go into making judgements as we watch, hear or read the statements made by leaders, brands and organisations. But as we can see from the survey, people want their leaders to provide accurate and honest information as a starting point so that they can then make their own assessments and decisions on what’s best for them, their communities and their country.

That’s not to say leaders shouldn’t be caring, compassionate and able to clearly express their position. However, effective and long-lasting leadership needs to be earned through honesty and integrity, which builds a pathway to believability. This is the goal leaders should be aiming for to inspire and motivate people to be part of their vision, whether it’s running a large business or leading the nation.

For more information on the Believability Index, visit Ogilvy PR’s official website.

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