They do the right things for the right reasons.
I will describe what I mean by the word “right.” Each letter of the word stands for the reasoning behind a tough decision and what makes it the correct and proper action and decision. On the high road, right stands for:
R – reality-based
I – integrity building
G – good for the majority
H – honesty above all
T – trust fostering
Leaders, who prefer the low road, make decisions based on fiction. The fiction comes from untested assumptions, faulty reasoning, or the desire to make the impossible happen. I see this occurring often in business plans and budgets. The CEO sets unreasonably high goals that can never be achieved, just to find this belief: “The impossible only takes a little while longer.”
I support challenging people, but stretch goals need to be based in reality. If your followers do not believe in your vision and your plan, you will never get to where you’re leading them.
Are all your decisions and mandates based in reality?
Integrity means many things to many people. To me, it is simply that what you see is what you get. You can tell a person has integrity because their words, actions, thoughts, and intentions are all the same. A person of integrity has no hidden agenda and is unafraid to display who they are.
Pseudo leaders, who do not buy into taking the high road, use subterfuge to get their followers to do something. They employ bonuses, incentives, pressure, or hidden agendas to get what they want.
Do you believe in integrity? Would your followers say you have integrity?
Good for the Majority
As a leader, it is easy to succumb to a temptation to use your power for personal gain. The high road leader resists that urge and focuses on decisions and actions that are good for more than just them. That onramp to the high road requires tremendous courage. At times, someone is on the short end of a decision or action. Yet high road leaders strive to consider the impact that a decision or action will have on those involved directly and indirectly.
How often do you consider the eventual ramifications of your important decisions?
Honesty above All
Honesty is a required trait to be an effective high road leader. Yet what I found from experience and people I have mentored, it is easy to delude oneself about what is honest. On more than one occasion I have witnessed someone who believes something about themselves which later proved untrue.
This trait of honesty above all requires high road leaders to look within themselves to seek and test for the real truth. Pseudo leaders take what someone else told them as the truth and repeat it. This is the path of least resistance because they never bother to question whether the statement was true.
The trait of honesty above all has a second facet. Honesty requires that the leader use tact when delivering the truth. Some leaders feel that brutal honesty is important as a leader, yet that is not the high road. Good leaders focus on the relationship they have with the people they lead. As you will see in the next dimension of honesty, it is easy for a leader to always want to be right. Self-righteousness is an exit from the high road.
Another aspect of honesty above all is to say the things that no one else wants to say. A leader on the high road recognizes when they need to share their concerns about the situation or issue. Often a bad decision comes about because no one felt confident enough to play the devil’s advocate, yet testing the strength of a decision or course of action is necessary to be on the high road.
How many of your truths were things you accepted without question?
How often have you deluded yourself about what is truthful, especially about who and what you are? [If you answered ‘never’ you just failed the first part of this test.]
Do you use tact when you must deliver bad news?
When was the last time you spoke up about a concern that no one else dared to mention?
A high road leader focuses on the relationship they want to have with those they lead because the quality of your leadership is defined by your followers and not by you. Therefore, doing the right things for the right reasons includes ensuring that your actions and decisions foster trust. Without trust, you are not a leader.
For every single way to build it, there are dozens of ways to harm trust. The high road leader uses self awareness to think through the consequences of their actions and decisions on other people. Sometimes the leader makes unpopular decisions but yet uses techniques and words to retain high levels of trust.
If you are untrustworthy you will never be seen as someone to follow. If you do not trust others, you will never be a leader.
How do your words and actions engender trust?
In leadership actions and decisions, high road leaders do the right things for the right reasons. To be recognized as someone leading from the high road, you must do everything within your power to have your feet firmly grounded in reality, be a person of utmost integrity, seek out what is best for the majority, and be honest with yourself and with others. All of these work to engender trust, one of the ten necessary qualities of a high road leader.