"Not that you lied to me, but that I no longer believe you has shaken me." Friederick Nietzche, "Beyond Good and Evil."
When Nietzche wrote these words, he was addressing the issue of the consequence of mistrust. Granted, Nietzche himself had a place for lying as a philosophical tactic, but it was a personal issue then and still has meaning in a big way for leaders today.
I've written on integrity in this blog before and often. In fact, I did an interview on Fox News a year or so ago about the backlash on the reputation of leaders due to the banking crisis and financial misdeeds revealed at the time. This is the unfortunate truth. Not only is trust violated when an individual lies, it is violated "as-a-class." This is why scandals like those surrounding Rep. Anthony Weiner, John Edwards, David Willetts (Oxford University) or Dirk Kettelwell (Radio Shack) have such a long lasting and sweeping impact. It's not just that we can't trust THEM…we end up questioning the integrity of all leaders.
The same is true of CEOs, midlevel managers, and front line supervisors. Once one of these people break our trust, we have a hard time trusting anybody with the same role. It is a broad brush, it is unfair, and it is part of our human survival instinct. Should you be under the spotlight because somebody else did something wrong? Probably not. But the perception of your personal integrity is your own responsibility regardless of whether it is fair.