Vote counts, pandemic stats, vaccination hesitancy. Fact-based consensus--commonly called truth--has become a gobsmackingly rare commodity in this divisive world of multiple and opposing "truths."
Honesty itself is in critically short supply these days. Heck, even the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner flunked his post-race drug test.
In the business world, today's quicksilver fluidity of "truth" has become a license to fake it till you make it for many in leadership roles. But others see the honesty shortage as a remarkable business opportunity. When the demand for a valued good exceeds supply, those who have it to offer find themselves in an enviable position.
In the book Make It, Don't Fake It: Leading With Authenticity for Real Business Success, C-suite adviser, entrepreneur, and communications expert Sabrina Horn gives leaders the tools to resist "short hacks," and the courage to lead with authenticity and integrity.
It's not just about having morals
Anyone can be tempted to exaggerate or minimize the truth, only to sabotage their own success and destroy their reputation. So instead of digging yourself out of a hole with damage control, Horn asks, "Why not steer clear of fakery by taking the path to real leadership, an authentic foundation, and enduring success?"
Horn shared the top three reasons as to why honesty really is the best policy and why you should build your business on it.
1. Honesty is a great brand, high in demand, and short in supply
When truth and truth-telling are scarce, consumers and customers will jump at the chance to do business with a company whose brand is honesty. Cutting corners--faking it--may seem (or actually be) expedient in the short term but building long-term success on dishonest business practices turns out to be nearly impossible. So, why would you do this to yourself, your employees, and your customers? Horn shares that "honesty is not a frill or a value added. It is the core and essence of any great brand. It differentiates the great brand from the rest. It creates demand. Real demand."
2. Honesty is reality.
Fake it till you make it is a meme broadcast through social media and pop culture and now bizarrely morphed into acceptable business advice. The problem with memes is that they require no connection to reality. They propagate from person to person without ever touching ground.
"We must make a hard descent back to the fertile earth of reality, where success is more than a function of 'getting away with something.' Honesty is reality," shares Horn.
"Faking it is a loser's game. It might take a minute, a day, or a year, but reality always wins in the end, and when it does, it ruins the reputations of those who run their companies on the thread of a meme," adds Horn.
Real value in business is an exchange of fair value for fair value. Reality-based leaders look for what they can give. Meme-based "leaders" look only for what they can take. That makes them frauds. For whom do you want to work? With whom do you want to do business?
3. Honesty is easier.
As the playwright, screenwriter, and movie director David Mamet likes to say, "Always tell the truth. It's the easiest thing to remember." The weight of morality, ethics, decency, and, yes, brand value are all on the side of honesty. If this seems like too much virtue to swallow, understand that honesty is always easier than weaving the tangled web of fable and deception.
"Telling the truth can be painful. It can be hard, sad, and scary. But inventing, then propagating, and then defending fakery is a grind that burdens the mind, wears down the soul, and burns holes in the gut. It may or may not kill you, but, quickly or slowly, it will surely kill your business," Horn shares.
Make It, Don't Fake It is a good guide to help business leaders avoid faking it and, instead, achieve success with integrity -- doing business that is grounded in reality. "Exchange on any other basis is fakery, which is theft. And theft is never a sustainable business model, even in a world with many thieves," says Horn.