- by Kamran Rizvi

While making tough decisions, don’t lose sight of wisdom. Wisdom is making correct use of knowledge.

We have always known that honesty is the best policy. Yet, why is it, that despite having this knowledge, we conveniently risk losing our credibility by flouting it? 

What's the point of knowing anything, if the intent is not to benefit self and others from the knowledge you have acquired over the years? Not to make correct use of what we know renders us a fool. Harsh as this may sound, it's high time we confront this reality. Each one of us needs to look within ourselves instead of pointing fingers at others.

The challenges we face today, in our families, society and organisations, stem from our own past deeds. We are reaping what we have sown. For example, we know that time, ours and that of others, needs to be respected, yet we flout this edict mindlessly every day. We turn up late for meetings and deliberately go to weddings a few hours later. Sadly, being lax about timekeeping in our daily conduct has become a norm.

Doing what we know is not as easy as it sounds. Many situations we face do not lend themselves to simple ‘black and white’ thinking. There are infinite shades of grey in between. The ‘grey’ zone requires a much deeper understanding of a situation and with a good sense of timing to boot, if we are to make a positive difference. For instance, there is a time when speaking the truth is not advisable, particularly if it harms someone, and also yields no benefit. On other occasions a ‘white lie’ may be the best course of action to solve a particular problem, without in any way, crossing ethical boundaries.  

Impeccable execution relies heavily on all internal and external stakeholders being on board with the plan. It’s your personal leadership, imbued with integrity that can align the diverse factions to a common goal. It takes confidence and wisdom to deliver on promises you make by taking everyone along. 

Professionalism invites you to ‘profess’ or lay a claim to some types of expertise you possess. It is about you declaring your capability for a given set of tasks. What you know and how you do it, shapes your identity in the minds of others and in turn builds your reputation over time.   

Being consistent over time is of the essence when it comes to building your personal and professional credibility. For this you need to be clear on your values. 

While most established organisations today have explicit values and base their leadership competencies around them, it is surprising to find that most managers haven't consciously reflected on their own, let alone documenting them and sharing them with their relevant relationships. 

Knowing, understanding, believing in and living your personal values serves like an anchor, and keeps you centered and decisive in challenging situations. The reward of acting on your own values is that you can sleep well at night.  

You don’t have to go very far to find out your real values. Decisions you make each day reveal what you actually consider important. Recently, outside International Arrivals at Islamabad Airport, I saw a group of passengers getting off a bus. One of them was a smartly dressed gentleman in a dark suit. It was shocking to see this seemingly refined and educated individual casually drop litter on the floor as soon as he alighted. I wonder if he was conscious of his deed. 

Some values are personal to us, while others have to do with the collective. Observe how people keep their homes clean, yet litter is strewn outside their boundary walls. Most chauffeurs clean their cars, yet mindlessly chuck rubbish outside on the street. We talk of discipline, yet lose our temper at the slightest mistake made by our juniors.    

I urge you to have the courage to share your values at home, in your organisational environment and in society. Be prepared to receive feedback from those who care for you. They may point out some inconvenient truths every time your conduct varies from your stated creed. 

What you say and what you preach is just like your 'specimen signature' at the bank - a pattern of your writing – a description of your identity. Your ‘cheque’ (your actions) will not be honoured, if your ‘signature’ on the cheque varies from the specimen (your talk) you gave to the bank at the time of opening your account.  

It is easy to enter the world of self-delusion by espousing one set of value, while living another. Organisations and individuals often have the tendency to embrace values that sound and feel good. This is a useful starting point. At least there is something to go by. It is easy to see gaps in behaviours and practices when the expected standards are clearly laid down. Its only through knowing the gaps that steps can be taken to narrow them. I recall a local company which had this sentence at the beginning of its mission statement: “Seeking Allah’s pleasure in all that we do.” It soon became apparent to its management team that this was too big a claim to live by. 

Choose whatever values you like. What is important is that you remain true to them by becoming a role model. It is heartbreaking to see people compromising their own principles, and consequently their credibility, for securing short-term gains. 

For building greater credibility it is important for you to remember the following: 

 

1.Acquire and develop greater personal and professional expertise in your chosen field of interest; 

2.Develop personal attraction by working on your key relationships (family, work and community) and; 

3.Make consistent efforts directed to an end (a worthy goal). 

 

While making tough decisions, don’t lose sight of wisdom. Wisdom is making correct use of knowledge. We have always known that honesty is the best policy. Yet, why is it, that despite us having this knowledge, we conveniently flout it? 

It will not surprise you to learn that cheating and deceiving is pretty much a norm in some quarters. In fact, lying is seen in most academic, business and social circles, as the only available way to succeed in demanding situations. We have somehow turned a blind eye to wrongdoing at our own peril, and have conveniently sought refuge in elegant words like ‘expedient’ and ‘practical’. Both these terms have been used frequently to hide conduct (e.g., bribery) which if it became known to the wider world would be shameful and embarrassing. We don’t become clean just by wearing clean clothes. 

The habit of deceiving self and others stems from our fears and insecurities, which are mostly unfounded. You will find people who are risk-averse. As a consequence, such individuals prefer to sit on the fence and delegate upwards. There are others who suffer from the fear of losing their job by arguing or disagreeing with their bosses, so they resort to lies and nod in agreement, when they feel otherwise. 

Fear of the unknown is also very common. Managers who find themselves paralysed by ambiguity and chaos are a liability for any organisation in this day and age. Change, by its very nature, leads to varying degrees of uncertainty. We are living in times characterised by massive social and technological change which demands credible leadership. To add value in these challenging times, you need to develop competencies that may enhance your adaptability, intuition, resilience and risk-taking ability.  

If you don’t address your fears caused by your infected beliefs about people and life in general, you will not only harm yourself but also those around you. It is worth keeping in mind that to fear doing what you know to be good is a form of evil. Therefore, by developing greater self-confidence you will eliminate your tendency to commit this subtle evil – of not doing good. It’s not enough for you to say, ‘I have never harmed anyone!’; instead, ask what good can you do and then do it!  

To know and not to do, is not to know.  

 

Kamran Rizvi came to Pakistan and pioneered the self-improvement and organisation development movement under the banner of KZR