Hypocrisy: Good and Bad
When it comes to promoting ethical behavior, all of us are wounded healers. If sainthood were required in order to be an ethics advocate, there would be few of them. As Zig Ziglar said when confronted by those who said his church had a bunch of hypocrites in it, "Come on in. There's room for one more."
Adopting a positive image in order to promote good is understandable and desirable. We try to appear better than we are. [As I'm reminded every morning, clothes do make the man.] Some gaps between image and reality are permissible. The difficulty arises when the gap is too large. For example, we will permit politicians a certain amount of waffling but when there is a sizable distance between what is said and what is done, then trust is no longer deserved.
The same is true in various organizations. Leaders who say "Yes" but do "No" will only be able to get away with that under limited circumstances. Step past those boundaries and credibility will evaporate. Are the boundaries clearly marked? Not really and that creates further friction. I frequently see people cheering leaders who are, in my opinion, ethical eunuchs. Whenever that happens, I'm not sure which troubles me more: the leader or the followers? The violator or the apologists? To what extent does the leader's hypocrisy corrupt the followers?
I recall an executive who told me that in his organization, "We don't recover our wounded." They weren't shouting that revelation from the rooftops. It was a hard truth but, as hard truths tend to do, it triggered questions: What sort of leadership does that place have? And what sort of people remain there?