Creative LeadershipCreativity

Character: Who You Are When You’re Alone

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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  1. This is so the truth. On the other end, I’m more careful now after an innocent incident happened;
    someone’s snapshot of the situation made me look guilty as charged. I was early for a meeting taking place in a hotel conference room 45 miles from my home. I sat down in the lobby passing time, when the Sr. Pastor who was leading the meeting came and sat at the table with me for a minute of small talk. We walked together to the conference room, which was very near the actual hotel rooms. Months later, my husband was pulled aside by someone we went to church with years ago who reported seeing me in a hotel lobby with a man. Explain that one! You just never know who is watching you wherever you are. No place is safe if you want to be bad.

  2. A truer word has been spoken. Application thereof will result in great blessing by overcoming potential or underlying bad behaviour. Thanks Phil

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