“When people show you how they are, believe them.”

Think of a person that tells you they are going to do something, then they do something else. What do you think of that person? Does that make you trust them more or less? Most of us would think less of someone who’s constantly preaching one thing and acting another. And most of us would be able to come up with a high profile example of someone who has been caught in the act of trying to cover up duplicitous behaviors.

How many times have we been caught up in believing the promises of others only to be devastated when their behaviors reveal they are someone else? I think we use the term “hypocrite” to define these folks. However, be careful. I told you this premise has power. Have you ever said something or promised something that you couldn’t live up to? Have you ever been guilty of duplicitous behavior of your own? Whether you get caught or not, you know. You may deny it, but it’s there. As I said, this comment has caused me on more than one occasion to look at where I’m at in my life, reevaluate where I want to be, and make changes to my behaviors and my actions.

Believe it or not, people are watching. Especially if you are in a leadership role. I think back to one of the many lessons given to me by one of my mentors at Hughes Aircraft, Bob Gumber. He said, “Everybody serves as an example to others. You can choose to be a good example or a bad one.” Bob had been at Hughes Aircraft for 35 years at the time, knew Howard Hughes personally. Not much fazed him. I worked with Bob for six years. I was 24 when I met him, the youngest (and greenest) manufacturing engineer in the circuit card assembly department. He gave me the gift of feedback. Most of it was positive. However, he wasn’t afraid to share with me directly when I made mistakes. He was demanding of me, but he never got mad at me. Bob had a baritone voice that I imagine would be the voice of God if I heard it out loud. He always praised me in public and criticized me in private.

Bob taught me that none of us are perfect. He shared with me his triumphs, his tribulations, his thoughts, his beliefs. He told me that the only limits I had were the ones I put on myself. And he was there for me when I made my own mistakes. Again, there’s that example thing. We all remember who shows up when we screw up or when things don’t turn out the way we expect them to. Both my grandfather and my mentor showed me who they were. As an Character-Based Leader, we need to recognize this simple fact and act accordingly.