Oswald Letter

Sincerity Is Strength

Over the past few weeks, I have been reminded what a powerful trait sincerity can be in the workplace.  Webster’s defines sincerity as “the quality or state of being sincere, honesty of mind, freedom from hypocrisy.”

I like that term “honesty of mind.” It strikes me that when you encounter someone who is truly sincere, he exudes a genuineness that is undeniable. What a strength that can be for someone at work.

A person who is sincere easily develops trust with his coworkers because he is open and honest even in admitting weakness or vulnerability. In fact, in doing so, his credibility goes through the roof because we all know that no one has all the answers. And anyone pretending that he does loses that credibility because we know he isn’t sincere.

Recently I’ve been working with a young executive who just plain ol’ gets it. When I reflect on what causes me to have such confidence in him, it’s his sincerity. No doubt he’s bright. He’s also a hard worker. But what really sets him apart from his peers is his sincerity. He doesn’t pretend to be something he’s not. He doesn’t pretend to know more than he does. But he does promise to work hard, have an open mind, and figure things out.

There’s a vulnerability in his approach that many people are afraid to show in the workplace. But he’s wise enough to understand what George Henry Lewes meant when he said, “Insincerity is always a weakness; sincerity even in error is strength.” Think about how you react when you know someone has been completely sincere in their effort yet failed. Compare that to how you react to someone who is insincere and doesn’t deliver on what they promised. Would you react differently? Most would.

Here’s another way a sincere person gets ahead even though she doesn’t succeed every time — she admits when she’s wrong. The British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said, “One of the hardest things in this world is to admit you are wrong. And nothing is more helpful in resolving a situation than its frank admission.” A sincere person is much more apt to admit she’s wrong because she possesses that “honesty of mind” that Webster’s uses to define sincerity. And other people respect that honesty. It builds confidence and trust, two things a leader cannot be without.

Sincerity also allows a person to build credibility in the workplace. And according to Edward R. Murrow, the respected journalist, “To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful.” To be an effective leader, you must be persuasive. You must be able to convince others of the direction they must go, the actions they must take. To be persuasive, you must have people’s trust. They must believe you. You must be credible. Sincerity makes you believable because it gives you credibility.

Here’s the thing about sincerity: You can’t fake it. I can’t tell you how to become sincere. In fact, I’m not sure that someone who is insincere can change. But if you’ve been afraid to show sincerity in the workplace, maybe it’s because you think it shows weakness. You’re wrong. Sincerity can be a tremendous asset to you as a leader in an organization. Don’t be afraid to demonstrate your sincerity with your colleagues. You’ll find it makes you a more effective leader.