Integrity is the lifeblood of leadership. It is one of the most cited corporate aspirational values, despite being notoriously difficult to measure. I find it rather useless as a core value because it’s really more of a prerequisite for business. It would be like a doctor’s office saying a core value is having licensed physicians. That’s not a core value; it’s a prerequisite.
As mentioned in the last post, integrity is one of the key ingredients of building trust in your leadership, your company, and your brand. In this blog and next week’s, we’ll explore five areas in which a leader or business must exhibit integrity. Let’s begin with the first three:
1. Consistency between public and private life
This is the obvious and most used definition of integrity. We all strive to achieve this consistency in our businesses so I don’t feel the need to say too much about it. However, something I think worth considering is the potential difference in our behavior at work and at home. When we get home, we let our hair down and relax, perhaps inadvertently turning off our monitors of appropriate interpersonal behavior. In other words, it’s easier to be a jerk to our kids than to our boss. This is especially true in more stressful seasons of work. Those with the highest levels of integrity are the same at work, at home, and on the golf course.
2. Doing what you say you’re going to do
This is the honesty aspect of integrity, and, frankly, I struggle with this one. Not because I’m normally a dishonest person but because I promise more than I can deliver out of a desire to help others. I’ve had to learn the hard way that sometimes ‘no’ is the best answer. Failure to deliver on our promises would read as a lack of honesty and integrity, even if the root cause was over-promising due to a genuine desire to help.
Our culture wrestles with the tension between glorified individualism and social conformity. We love individualists and individual expression until that expression somehow rubs us the wrong way or violates a value we hold dear. I’ve seen this tension play out in the lives of many leaders. The leader who loves developing her team members and takes joy in a person’s incremental progress feels the pressure to be a visionary point leader. A natural visionary feels the criticism that he’s not available enough to the concerns of individual employees.
It’s no wonder that one of the most common reasons for job dissatisfaction is unclear expectations. Expectations are everywhere, both real and perceived. Thus, integrity demands clear expectations, and the best leaders set clear expectations for themselves. Then, as those expectations are met or exceeded over time, the leader’s influence increases because they are seen as a leader with integrity.
Next week, we’ll look at two more components to leadership integrity⸺consistency and staying true to yourself.