By Kay Caldwell
The study of human behavior is something I have built a career around. People are fascinating to watch. We are all leaders. We are leaders of our own lives, families, friends and jobs. You set an example whether you want the role or not. I worked for a vice president at Southwest Airlines once that relayed to me, as leaders we are in a fishbowl and everyone can see everything we do and we are judged for it. I hate to admit it but she is correct. I have seen a few careers ended over gossip and hurtful accusations that were the result of a destructive employee. If someone had picked up on the behavior before the damage was done, it could have made a difference in someone’s career. Why is it that the negative always outweighs the positive? How, as people, did we allow this mindset to take precedence?
I was talking with an associate in the training field few days ago. He is very confident and does an excellent job. He shared with me that he had rave reviews on his recent training class but one attendee remarked that “the instructor is a fake.” He said that review bothered him. I said, you had 40 positive reviews and the one negative review gets your attention? Why do we do this to ourselves? I heard Oprah Winfrey say she will have literally thousands of positive remarks on a show but one viewer that hated it. She said she will chase that one person down until she talks to him to find out why he hated it so much. Why do we allow our minds to dwell on what didn’t work for one person instead of what worked for thousands? It is a million dollar question.
A speaker I heard recently told a story that was impactful. In the late 1800’s, the President of our country was Andrew Johnson. It was right after the civil war had ended. He came in to the office at a trying time of deception and corruption. After a short time, the Senate wanted to impeach him. One senator from Kansas, Major E.G. Ross was said to be the senator to watch. He was young, a man of integrity and really was going to take the political world to a greater level. The Senate was actively pressuring him to vote for impeachment of the President. Everyone knew his was the deciding vote. The day came he was called on for the vote regarding impeachment. The speaker of the house said his name, “Senator Major Ross, how vote ye?” It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop on the senate floor. He said he stood and looked around the senate, everyone was looking at him. He said, “I vote, not guilty.” The crowd roared in mayhem. His vote kept President Andrew Johnson in place.
When asked later by the press why he voted not guilty, Major Ross said, when the decision to vote came to me, I saw a vision of myself near an open grave. He knew in that second the man was not guilty. He knew if he voted guilty he was digging the grave for not only the president but for the people of the United States of America. He knew the vote was political suicide for him. However, Major Ross knew if he didn’t do the right thing, regardless of the consequences, he would never be able to ease his conscience.
When you have the career of others in your hands, what do you see as your responsibility? Shouldn’t there be behavior assessment for what is real and fair? “The supreme quality for a leader is unquestionable integrity,” said Dwight Eisenhower. “Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is in a section gang on a football field, in an army or in an office. If his associates find him guilty of phoniness, if they find that he lacks forthright integrity he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need therefore is integrity and high purpose.”