Can you keep confidential information … confidential?

When you are in a leadership role, at any level, you will be privy to information that is confidential. Sometimes it’s about a company’s strategy. Maybe there’s an acquisition or merger in play. Or at times it may be something personal about an employee that should be kept discreet.
It is exceedingly important that all leaders know when to keep confidential information confidential. Unfortunately, there are leaders who, for a number of reasons, just can’t seem to keep things to themselves. Not only do they damage their organizations, but they often pay a heavy personal price.
If leaders know they are going to have access to confidential information, and that they have an accountability to keep it discreet, why do they still share it?
For some, it’s an ego play. These leaders are trying to create the impression they are the primary hub for everything that’s happening in their company. This is a silly attempt at trying to show people how important they are in the pecking order of a company’s hierarchy. In reality, all that posturing is selfish and a sure sign of insecurity.
Other times, leaders simply do not respect the confidential nature of information, and how it can harm other people’s lives.
This is such an important leadership issue that I believe it is prudent for each of us to pause and reflect on it. How do you respond when you have access to confidential information? Can you be trusted to keep your mouth zipped up? Or do you have loose lips?
I believe if you are in a leadership role, you have a fundamental obligation to safeguard sensitive or potentially embarrassing information. Further, it is your duty to make sure if someone starts sharing confidential information with you, that you stop them. Don’t engage in the conversation. Be the example for other leaders in your company.

About the Author
Vince Molinaro is the Global Managing Director of Strategic Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison. He is also the author of “The Leadership Contract” – a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Vince has spent more than 20 years as an adviser to boards and senior executives looking to improve leadership in their organizations.