I wish I could say honesty is the only policy. It is not. It is, though, the only one I followed, and it should be the only one a good leader pursues. There is no (good) substitute for honesty.
One need not buy a lantern, and, like Diogenes, search for an honest man. One should be able simply to look in the mirror.
Early on, I found in budgetary reviews that, historically, only partial information was shared over the years with members of the committee that had fiscal oversight. Different groups had their representatives, but those representatives had little information and less say.
I immediately changed the process and made it as transparent as possible. While I repeatedly emphasized the fact the committee was an advisory group, I wanted members to give me their best advice, advice that could only be provided if they were given full information.
I held nothing back; I pulled no punches. Everything I knew or had, the committee was given. I was honest with them; I trusted them -- and that trust was never violated.
In telling them honestly whatever I thought, I asked for their word they would tell colleagues they could not discuss matters that were being discussed in committee (I did not want partial information leaking out). They gave their word, and they kept it.
I learned to act on this principle in my twenties, while guiding a governor's legislative program through chambers in which only 20 percent of the members were from his party. Despite knowing nothing about the legislative process when I began, I helped -- by being straightforward with everyone -- the Governor pass 70 percent of his legislative package.
When you are open and honest with people, when you trust them, you will find yourself rewarded. Not only will you be presenting a consistent message because you will not have to remember what you said to which constituency, but you will also find that your relationships with your constituencies will improve.
Be honest. It pays!