“Great leaders don’t need a chicken.”

In 1958 Mobil Travel Service, now Forbes Travel Service, launched its star rating system to rank hotels and restaurants in their quality of service, especially honesty and integrity. Millions of people worldwide now use their rating system when planning their travel. The more stars the better the service, five stars being the best.

In an old wives’ tale, a farmer tells his hired hand to take a chicken and kill it where no one can see. In a few hours, the hired man returns with a live chicken. The farmer asks, “Why didn’t you kill it?” The hired man responded, “Because everywhere I go the chicken sees.”

Great leaders don’t need a chicken to make sure they operate with honesty and integrity. Telling the truth is honesty, telling it all the time is integrity. Every discussion and decision in life has a moral or ethical component.

You should be able to explain your decisions the same way to anyone who asks whether it’s your spouse, core leadership team, stakeholders, the New York Times or Fox News.

America’s youth are confused growing up in country where in the past 40 years at least two Presidents have been publicly shamed for lying. One lied about having nothing to do with hiring men to break into his opposition’s headquarters and steal election strategies during a very tough political campaign.

The second had an affair with a young White House intern then promptly denied it for weeks. His eventual explanation gave an entirely new meaning for lying when he said, “It all depends on what the meaning of is, is.”

Thank God for men like James Burke, former CEO of Johnson & Johnson. He made a very difficult decision in 1982 to destroy millions of dollars of product after seven people died in Chicago taking Tylenol laced with cyanide. Or Paul Galvin, former CEO of Motorola whose credo was, “Tell the truth the first time because it’s the right thing to do, they will find out anyway.”

Honesty and integrity are not options for great leaders and successful organizations, they are a way of life. They are the bedrock for every act they perform and every decision they make. In the long-term, there is no fundamental trade off between honesty and integrity and financial success, just the opposite.

Regardless of your field of leadership, cheating, however minor, may bring short-term gains but the long-term price is just not worth it. Even when no one else sees, the chicken sees. The real you is who you are when no one is looking.

“Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking and truth living.” Faust