Of all my findings, the revelation that honesty is more than a character trait or moral principle was the most important. It’s more than an aspiration; it’s a capability. To be good at it, you have to work at it. And that begins with believing you can be better at it than you currently are. 

To be sure, leading this kind of life and team takes work. It demands practice. Embodying truth, justice, and purpose requires real competence. These aren’t just ethical qualities you either have or don’t. My research revealed that honesty is a muscle, and like any muscle, to make it strong you have to work on it. Regularly. When an athlete leaves the gym or a patient leaves physical therapy, they feel sore but satisfied. Becoming good at honesty is no different. When you declare that you and your organization wish to serve a worthy purpose, you have to eliminate the distractions and contradictions that keep you from doing so. This process takes insight, ongoing feedback, and creativity. It takes grit to deflect the naysayers and courage to remove the obstacles. 

When you set out to create a more just organization, you will be tampering with deeply embedded institutional biases that, likely unknowingly, have privileged some people over others. You have to be willing to interrogate your processes of accountability—what you measure, how you acknowledge contributions, how you create opportunities for others to advance and shine, and how you talk with those you lead about their contributions—to make sure everyone has the same chances of being successful, no matter who they are. That may require disappointing some people who’ve benefited from the biases in the old system and helping them recognize the need to create accountability that is based on dignity and justice for all. It means being vulnerable with those you lead and building sufficient trust with them, as only then will you be in a position to hold them to account for commitments they make and talk openly about when they fall short. And you have to model what it means to acknowledge your own shortfalls and improve. 

There are plenty of platitudes I could offer about why being more honest and just is “good for you,” though you’ve undoubtedly heard those since kindergarten. But I deeply believe that understanding the conditions under which we, and our organizations, encourage dishonesty and injustice can bring greater levels of contribution and satisfaction, and ultimately meaning. I want you to discover, painful though it might be, the ways your organization unknowingly encourages employees to withhold or distort the truth or act unjustly, and how to fix the conditions that create this behavior. From there, you will be much more empowered to make different choices. And, as you will see, choosing truth, justice and purpose can make you and your organization healthier, higher-performing and significantly more competitive, and ultimately, more joyful. 

In the end, my hope is that To Be Honest will help you live a more honest life—one in which you tell the truth, act with justice toward others, and live your purpose with deep satisfaction and impact. I have no intention of defining your moral compass or value system; that’s yours to do. But I want you to feel proud of the people and organizations you lead, knowing that you’ve created the conditions in which people will choose honesty. That way, when you return home at night, you’ll be able to look your loved ones in the eye and know you are exactly the person they believe you are. 

What you will find on the pages of To Be Honest is the roadmap for doing just that.