Let your “Yes” be “Yes” and your “No” be “No”

I was at a faculty meeting at Bakke Graduate University where I’m a part-time prof and we were discussing the need to allow some of our doctoral students to “save face.” It seems that some of our students had told their congregations they were going for their doctorates, but some hadn’t actually finished their coursework while others hadn’t finished their dissertations. The faculty was considering a motion to offer “certificates” to these students so they could “save face” with their congregations.

Great leaders don’t need to save face because they have integrity – they say what they mean and they mean what they say…and they do it by when they say they’ll do it.

“But what if a leader fails? What if they aren’t able to keep their word?”

It’s true that even great leaders can’t keep their word all the time. Great leaders make big plans…sometimes bigger plans than they can accomplish. And besides, life happens. Things come up that are unexpected. However, great leaders know that NEITHER of these are an excuse. NEITHER of these is a “good” reason for not keeping their word. (Let’s face it, no one cares about your reasons…everyone has lots of reasons for not having integrity. People care about whether they can count on you to do what you said you’d do. Period.)

So, how do you keep your integrity when you can’t keep your word? You clean it up. You don’t try to “save face” by coming up with the whys and the wherefores; instead, take responsibility for your failure to keep your word and then make a new commitment (that you’ll darned well keep it this time).

Instead of letting the doctoral students “save face,” the students each need to face their congregations and say, “I know I said I was going to get a doctorate, but I didn’t finish.” Then they can make a commitment to finish or they can move onto something else. But at least they’ll have restored their integrity.

Oh, and the faculty decided to help our failing students out…by not letting them off the hook. There are no face-saving certificates at BGU.