Integrity-The Magic Ingredient
If you had to pick a single quality or trait you most wanted in a leader what would it be? Whether you’re thinking of your boss at work, a politician, a prime minister, a committee chairman or organisation CEO, what would be that single quality, the one thing that you see as essential and non negotiable, the one thing that if it was “absent” would mean that you couldn’t possibly follow that person as a leader.
In 30 years I have run many leadership programmes either as training courses or as part of organisational change projects using Vision, Values, Development as my three core themes. From boards of directors to school principals these are the elements that define a leader and their approach.
Having a Vision gives direction to the leader’s strategy, clear Values gives moral strength to the leader personally and builds commitment within the team, and having a Development mindset and orientation ensures a change agenda for improvement and growth at both personal and organisational levels.
All of my 30 years experience tells me that it is ONE particular value that defines the leader and determines whether they will be followed or not. Unlike having a fuzzy vision or a messy development strategy, both of which can be changed or improved, this particular value is paramount. To express it negatively, would you work with a leader who lacked integrity? I thought not! Integrity is so vital to the leader-follower relationship that it probably counts towards the probability of success of any team, group, organisation more than any other factor.
At this point I am not going to attempt to give a simple and clear definition of integrity, because it is a word that has slightly different meanings depending on its contextual use, but we would all probably associate it with words like honesty, fairness, ethical, moral, as well as those based on its original Latin root meaning from “integer” meaning whole or sound or complete. What is much more important is to understand some of the typical behaviours that a leader would display if integrity was a strong core value within them.
Rather than give a personal list here I refer you to a short article written by Seth Meyers in the Psychology Today journal. Entitled “7 Signs of people with integrity” the author says that “Integrity is about doing the right thing even when it’s not acknowledged by others, or convenient for you. An individual with integrity is the antidote to self-interest. There are countless examples of integrity in everyday life—and yet we seldom see some of the examples highlighted below acted out in our daily lives”. Meyers then lists his 7 common examples of observable behaviours displayed by people with integrity. Not all are work related or concerned with leadership, but they all give clues as to how a leader might behave such as highlighting staff accomplishments rather than their own, apologising for/if keeping captive audiences waiting, being non judgemental and giving people the benefit of the doubt.
So if you are interested in leadership or trying to develop yourself as a leader then take a look at Meyers article, do you agree with his 7 examples, can you add more, and how do you measure up against them yourself? But don’t despair, in the words of Meyers final paragraph:
“The good news about integrity is that we’re not born with it—or without it—which means that it’s a behaviour-based virtue we can cultivate over time. We can set a goal to show more integrity in everyday life and we can reach that goal by practicing the key behaviours, as well as countless others which too often go unnoticed.”