Among the effective leader’s arsenal of habits, integrity is one of our most important and dynamic tools. For those of us who strive for greatness, integrity begins as a habit and eventually becomes a way of being. Vigorous leaders have embodied the habit of integrity into who they are. Many people don’t yet possess a high standard of integrity, but anyone can start cultivating this important character trait by following certain guidelines. Let’s begin by discussing what it means to be someone with integrity, and then we’ll take a closer look at the associated behavior.
I looked up the definition of integrity on Vocabulary.com, and it states that integrity is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” This interpretation is a good start, but what does integrity look like in regards to leading an organization effectively?
When performed consistently, these traits begin earning a powerful sense of trust from others. Do those around you trust that you’re going to fulfill on the mission that you’ve declared? Do they see you as someone who lives by the values of the organization? Do you trust yourself to uphold your word?
Trust is a crucial aspect of great leadership, and integrity is the foundation upon which it’s built. Trust creates expectations that things will get done when declared, creating a company-wide practice of agreements fulfilled. If people lose faith in their leader, it causes chaos and misdirection in the organization. Without trust, things begin to unravel quickly.
I really love this quote from The Art of War: “Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.” I interpret this as saying, ‘build a profound trust of your employees, and there is nowhere you can’t go.’
Being someone with integrity means, we are consistent. We naturally trust people who are consistent, and those who are usually experience more effective results in life. Being consistent means your values, beliefs, words and behaviors are all aligned, and they have to be because no one can sniff-out your inconsistencies faster than the people you’re trying to lead. Powerful leaders are deeply consistent individuals; they’re very clear of their values system and have tremendous integrity with those principles.
Integrity isn’t something you can fake; it’s a part of your character. But the good news is you can develop your integrity muscle. It starts by taking the time to deeply understand just what your values are, and then holding yourself to that high standard, adhering to the values of your organization and yourself above all else, keeping your word even when it seems difficult, and acknowledging when you don’t do what you say. Create a habit of reviewing your values daily, of sticking to your word, and continue living by this practice until it becomes a part of you.
Developing the habit of integrity is essential if you wish to lead well. If you can begin living by the principles of integrity every day, building consistency with each interaction, your life will change dramatically. In the next edition of the series, we’ll touch on the habit of Approachability and how great leaders do so by example.