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Leadership Styles: Integrity


“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them. ” Brené Brown

When it comes to the options on what makes the list of choices for personal and organizational core values, integrity makes every list. Not just on the list, it is often the first-mentioned, and at the top of the list. In a way, it is the filter every other value is sifted through. This is a value driver, reinforcing how we commit to, believe in, and follow through with the other values.

Consider some of these common quotes and sayings about integrity:

  • “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one else is watching.”
  • “Integrity is following through with what you said, and walking the talk.”
  • “Integrity is staying true to who you are, especially when times get tough.”

It is about truth. Your personal truth. Truth that hurts when convenience would be easier. It’s about character. It’s about how we treat others. It’s what influences respect from others. It’s honesty, and acting honestly. It’s when you can fail miserably and know you did your best, versus winning big time knowing you cut corners to get it done. It’s when your private and your public align. It’s about trust – the trust you have in yourself and the trust you create for the others around you. It’s the big reason people follow you.

Integrity in leadership

When you think of a great leader, someone with a great management style, what characteristics come to mind? What is it that compels us to follow? I contend that much of what draws followers in is the character of the leader, and their ability to put the needs of others ahead of their own. We see this humility and their desire to make others successful. We trust them to stand beside us. We trust their integrity.

Case in point, if you know someone who has the title of leader, and has shown they lack integrity…would you follow them? Maybe the title would dictate it, however, the character of the leader will always impact to what extent you follow. This reminds me of what John Maxwell says, “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.”

So, how does integrity play a part in you, your team, or your organization? How would you describe and define integrity as it applies to those perspectives?

Start thinking about integrity today

Get a sheet of paper and a pen. Draft your answers to some or all of following questions:

  • What kind of actions define integrity?
  • Why is having integrity important, necessary, and essential in your leadership style?
  • Why would someone follow you?
  • How would you rate your ability and intention in: admitting mistakes, being vulnerable, responding to change, working through difficulty & uncertainty, forgiving others, keeping promises, and doing the next right thing?
  • Who models integrity well in your sphere of influence? What are their behaviors? Who doesn’t, and why?
  • If you asked your team to rate/describe your leadership integrity, or the integrity of the company leadership, what would they say?
  • Mirror moment: Is there a gap between what you say and what you do? What about what you ought to be doing and what you are doing, or how you think you are leading versus how you are actually living out your leadership?
  • How would you process the following question: Can you train integrity?

Are these honest answers, or ones we want to hear? Maybe that is the first test of the level or depth of our integrity. Are we willing, honest, and open enough to tell the truth? Starting with ourselves.

Leadership style: integrity

Integrity in leadership is…well, everything. If this is off, everything else is off as well. Warren Buffet said, “In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.” Integrity is the cornerstone.

So where is the easiest place to look for it? As I researched integrity, a word kept sticking with me. 

Authenticity.

Why? Because I wholeheartedly believe that leadership is not just what you do, it’s who you are. You are a leader because there was something about you. You have been wired a certain way. Your skill set and mindset. Your decisions. Your intentions. Your passion and purpose.

Integrity therefore comes from within, and aligns exactly with who we are and the values we live by…no matter what. Sticking to those values, to our belief and faith, in all circumstances. Success and failure. Sunny day or rainy day. To be resolutely committed to who we are at all times, regardless of circumstances. Assertively authentic, especially when things are unprecedented and upside down.

I leave you with a challenge; a simple integrity “to do”. Be the example. Be the example of the level and degree of integrity you want to have…personally, with your team, or in your organization. Be it…out loud, every day with whatever you are given. Even if no one is watching.

5 ways you can bring focus on integrity

  1. Conduct assessment and/or survey to gauge how teams rate integrity within your organization
  2. Instead of just noting integrity as a core value, collaborate on how to live it out behaviorally
  3. Get or become a mentor, accountability partner or battle buddy; speak truth about behavior
  4. Create and encourage “tell the truth” sessions to discuss what needs to start, stop, and continue
  5. Reward and recognize integrity, even the small stuff – when you see it, say it

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