Lead From High Ideals
Michael, a carpenter foreman for one of the largest industrial mechanical contractors in the nation, shared with Session 2 of the Leadership Development Lab® (LDL):
“In 1999 I went to work as a linguist with a civilian contractor for the Department of Defense in the former Yugoslavia republic of Bosnia Herzegovina. For the next four and a half years, I worked for the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) for the US Air Force. During this time I came across a sensitive situation that I shared with my team leader, who suggested we contact his colleagues who specialized in this field. The information I came across was then classified as Top Secret and I agreed not to talk about the incident further.
“Later that week, I called home to say hi to family and speak with my parents. While I was on the phone (open line), I shared some of my experiences from the last few weeks with my mother. Without thinking, I mentioned the classified incident referred to above. I froze on the line, my mind reeling. I told my mom to forget what I just mentioned. She knew immediately that I made a mistake. ‘I have already forgotten’ was her response. I thought that was the end of it.
“Little did I know, two days later I had to take a polygraph examination to be cleared for a program I was going to be part of. I had no problem with the examination as I had nothing to be afraid of, or so I thought. As I was hooked-up to the machine and ready to go through the exam, I was given a couple simple questions to get a baseline and ensure the equipment worked correctly. Then the real questions began, which were designed to get a direct response. One of the questions asked was, ‘had I ever revealed classified information’? My mind immediately went to the conversation I had with my mother, and
panic set in about, ‘How did they know?! What did I say?’ The examiner instantly knew there was an issue with that question. I answered truthfully and said, ‘Yes.’
“After the polygraph was over, we went over the results and of course I was asked about that question. I told the examiner what happened and what I did. He told me not to worry, it happens and not to get too worked up over it. They are more concerned with the willful sharing of classified information.
“After our talk I felt much better, was sworn in and included in the program. It was an instant where I had a choice, to tell the truth or try to get by on a lie. I chose the high road because in the end, all we really have is our word.”
This is a powerful story on the need to live our lives with integrity and honest impeccable truth – to lead from high ideals. When we do, we never have to look back or live with regret and self-doubt.
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