Join getAbstract to access the summary!

Absolute Honesty

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

Absolute Honesty

Building a Corporate Culture that Values Straight Talk and Rewards Integrity


15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

If honesty isn’t innate in your organization, you can foster it by following six basic rules. Number 1: Tell the truth.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable
  • Background
  • Concrete Examples


This handy guide endeavors to reduce the complex challenge of ethical leadership – with which great minds have struggled for thousands of years – to six simple and absolute rules of honesty. The authors, Larry Johnson and Bob Phillips, clearly explain each rule of absolute honesty they have derived and provide many illustrative anecdotes and examples drawn from daily life. There is a fascinating, moving story of one co-author’s unforgettable experience as a high school track star, and another account about a couple whose marriage ended in divorce after the wife insisted on acting dishonestly. Perhaps the authors believed that this volume would move even the greatest crooks to resolute and unswerving honesty. Alas, that is beyond their scope. However finds that ordinary businesspeople seeking general guidelines might find useful counsel here. Hey, at least it’s a start.


Confronting Dishonesty

Consider these companies: Enron, Worldcom, Tyco, Arthur Andersen, Adelphia and AOL TimesWarner.

The organizations on this roster of shame and disgrace allowed the seeds of dishonesty to sprout, grow and eventually split the foundations of their enterprises. Indeed, their much-publicized failures threatened the very underpinnings of the free-enterprise system itself. The problem began in the 1980s, when a soft, team-oriented management style emphasizing consensus and agreement led to the “Kumbaya Syndrome” – named after the dreamy old campfire song – in which everyone attempted to be nice, to cooperate and to avoid confrontation. Yet people who tell the truth have to confront dishonesty when they see it. That is the only way to keep an organization clean and healthy.

Enron’s Sherron Watkins wrote a memo to the chairman of her company about the dishonest practices she saw. It wasn’t nice, perhaps, but it was honest, and if she had sent it earlier, it might have done some good. Telling the truth is profitable, certainly more profitable than lying. Companies that emphasize honesty:

  • Build honest cultures that value integrity.

About the Authors

Larry Johnson is a consultant and public speaker. Bob Phillips is a former vice president at Tektronix and Thomson Multimedia. The co-authors are partners in the consulting firm Corporate Culture Strategies.

Comment on this summary

More on this topic

By the same authors