The Change Revolution
5/1/13 at 10:29 AM 2 Comments

Character: Who You Are When You're Alone

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Photo: Flickr/H. Michael Karshis - Creative Commons

The title of this post is an old adage – probably one you’ve heard a hundred times. But I was reminded of it’s importance last week when I visited Canada to speak at a private, nonprofit event. I arrived into the Calgary airport a few hours before the event, and with some time to kill I noticed there was an outlet mall near the airport. So I pulled in, and went to the local coffee shop to check my email and catch up on work. After an hour or so I decided to take a walk around the indoor mall. Now here’s the scenario:

I was more than a thousand miles from home.
I’m outside the United States.
I don’t know anyone in Calgary.
I’m not famous, so I’m walking around in total anonymity.

It’s exactly at this point that all those stories of executives, pastors, nonprofit leaders, politicians, and others crossing the moral line begin. Hitting on a woman, having an affair, making a fool of yourself at the bar, picking up a pornographic magazine – whatever.

I was thinking about that when something surprising happened. Standing outside the Tommy Bahama outlet store I got tapped on the shoulder.

“Aren’t you Phil Cooke?” The man asked.

It was Tom Simes, a filmmaker with Five Stones Films in Saskatoon. He’d been following my social media feed, reading my books, and came up out of nowhere to chat. And fortunately, because I wasn’t doing any of the questionable things above, we had a very nice talk, and really enjoyed the conversation.

The lesson?   Even in places you’ve never been, people are watching. God is watching. You may think you’ve done everything you can to cover your tracks, but the truth is, in a connected world, with instant messaging, email, and social media, word travels fast.

Be transparent. Don’t have anything to hide. Someone told me recently, “You’re only as strong as your biggest secret.”

If you’re serious about leadership, believe it.

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