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Accountability of Self | 3 Signs of Hypocrisy and How To Avoid Them

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

Accountability of Self AKA Leading By Example on a Bricks and Mortar Background

When we talk about accountability of self and leading by example, there is one critical thing that stands out more than anything else: Nothing and I mean nothing will destroy your credibility as a human being faster than being a hypocrite. It's a stinky, integrity killing cologne that nobody likes the smell of.

I have learned over 25 years in leadership that there are several ways that leaders, teams, and well...people destroy their credibility. Hypocrisy is oftentimes at the top of the list and while like most things in life, while it doesn't take long to destroy ones credibility it does take quite a while to build it up.

Within that here are three signs of hypocrisy and a few keys on how to avoid them:

1. Do as I say, not as I do

Have you ever used this phrase before? My guess is that most of us who have children, or nieces and nephews are probably nodding your heads because you have. I have raised several children myself and I am ashamed to say that I am guilty of this just as my parents were as well.

While we may be tempted to do this and take the easy way out, it is not a leadership strategy!

Ultimately what you're telling whoever you are trying to use this on that it's okay for me to break the rules, but i'm going to hold you to a higher standard.

Well, good luck with that because nobody responds to that and it is the essence of hypocrisy and people do not respond well to hypocrites.

2. The walk doesn't match the talk.

If you're going to talk the talk, you better walk the walk. Real leaders, teams, and people of integrity walk the talk.

Our actions need to back up what our mouths have communicated 100% of the time.

Otherwise, we are engaging in that H letter word that I've talked about several times already, and again, it's a stinky cologne.

Nothing shows the people that someone full of it more than someone who says one thing then does another.

3. I only take short-cuts when no one is watching.

REAL Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching. Well, my friends there's always someone watching. This is especially true if you are around kids: if you have little nieces and nephews, or grandkids. They absorb it all, they see it all, they hear it all, and then they turn around and they repeat it all.

If you are a leader, if you're on a high performing team, there are always going to be people watching and just waiting for you to be the hypocrite and screw up.

I wish this wasn’t the case, but it is the reality of the world we live in. They're waiting for you to be that hypocrite that way they can point at you and call you out and bring you down to their level. If you never give them the opportunity, you take away all the ammo.

Another point to consider is this; as human beings, whatever we do, whether that's positive behavior or negative behavior, is habit forming.

For instance, if I go and I work out five days a week for the next two or three weeks, I am now developing a positive habit. However, if I go kick up my feet every day and eat Cheetos I am developing a negative habit.

The same thing happens when we're talking about integrity.

If you choose to take short cuts and do the wrong thing when you think nobody's watching, you are developing a negative habit and eventually you're going to do the wrong thing must more of the time. Once this starts, it is only a matter of time before you start eroding your credibility.

Remember, there is ALWAYS someone watching. Even if you're on a desert island alone God above still sees all we do so hold the line and have good integrity.


Now that we have discussed the 3 signs of hypocrisy, lets cover how to avoid them:

never ask others to do anything you are not willing to do or have not already done yourself.

From a leadership perspective, this earns you a ton of credibility with your team. While it may not be possible to do this in every instance, try to do this as much as humanly possible.

There are a few reasons for this:

1. When you do this, you have a solid understanding of what their challenges are going to be. This will put you in a much better position to step in and help when they hit impasses.

2. It is the essence of leading by example and when people see that you are willing to be the first one to walk through the door, people respond to and really respect that.

Last, and this should go without saying, but I would be remiss if I did not, is this: stay above board and never ask them to do anything unethical. I know that seems like common sense, but it is a critical point to emphasize.

I am a big movie buff and one of my favorite movies is “We Were Soldiers” starring Mel Gibson. In the film he plays Lt. Colonel Hal Moore who was the leader of the 7th Cavalry in Vietnam and he and his men engaged in the first major ground conflict of that war.

In the movie, Gibson gives a speech to his officers and their families prior to leaving for Vietnam. In it he promises to be the first to step onto the battlefield and the last to leave it.

Moore followed through on that promise and it is a powerful testimony to the concept that we just discussed.

In the end, think of integrity like the saying, "Rome wasn't build in a day". It takes time, consistency and care to build trust and respect with people. With that said however, I like to add on to the above saying because while it took a long time to build, it took very little time for Rome to burn down. Integrity can be the same...

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