Employees Respond Best to Inspired Leadership
Integrity is a cornerstone attribute of a great leader. Each leader’s integrity is shaped by life lessons and circumstances that stem from our deepest thoughts on honesty and motives. Everyday, leaders make decisions that will test their integrity. It is important we ask ourselves—Is my foundation solid?
To grasp a developed understanding of integrity, think back to your most memorable experiences when integrity was introduced. Your experience can be as simple as mine.
I first learned about integrity when I was five years old. While at the grocery store with my mother, I wanted a certain type of candy and she told me that I could not have it. Before I knew it, when she was not looking, I slipped the candy into my coat pocket. I forgot about it until one day my mother found it in my pocket. For most of my life I looked back on the story; oh, how hard it was when my mother made me go back to the store, face the manager, return the candy and pay for it too. Yes, I was very scared I would be arrested. The guilt overwhelmed my 5-year-old self. But now, after surviving parenthood, I realize the person it was really difficult for was my mother. She could have saved herself the embarrassment and the trouble of driving back to the store. No one would have known — it was only 25 cents. But my mother taught me in that situation to do the right thing, even when it is hard. My mother gave me the gift of role modeling integrity.
Remember this—leadership integrity is doing the right thing even when it’s hard.
“Without a sense of fairness and justice, no leader can command and retain the respect of his followers.” Napoleon Hill wrote in his landmark bestseller book on success, Think and Grow Rich. Indeed, integrity is a core value of the organization for which I work and it is key for a culture of trust.
Leaders who have integrity do five things:
1) They always tell the truth . . . even when it’s hard.
Truth telling is more than not lying, it is telling the full truth.
While talking about the importance of being transparent in the office in an article published in The Washington Post, Russel writes, “If employees don’t know what is happening around them, they have the tendency to misunderstand or misread the leaders’ intentions and possibly think the worst.” Once a leader starts sugarcoating the truth or start telling employees what they want to hear, it’s a slippery slope.
2) They admit their mistakes.
Some of the best leaders are those who allow themselves to be vulnerable to admit their shortcomings and allow themselves and others to learn lessons from them. Bloomberg tells leaders in search of integrity to ask themselves these questions: “Do I Exhibit Clarity of Intent? Do I Operate with Purity of Motive?” And if not, admit your mistakes and move forward. A great leader learns from their mistakes.
3) They do what they say they will do.
Walk the talk. Stick with it through thick and thin. Leaders fulfill their commitments and they do it when they say they will do it and how they say they will do it. Forbes Magazine states, “When leaders are accountable for their mistakes, they are leading by example.” Set an example of integrity for your employees.
4) They demonstrate respect . . . for others, authority and resources.
Leaders with integrity treat people with honor. Leaders with integrity respect authority—a boss, a coach, a parent, a teammate. They treat those who can do nothing for them well. This is displayed through respecting the shared environment or by being a good steward of resources, both people and money.
5) They take the high road every chance they get and stand up for what is right.
Leaders with integrity avoid highlighting the failures of others. They focus on their own opportunities and challenges. Great leaders focus on the highest good of the group, and strive to find the “win/win” in all situations.
There is no one who does this perfectly every time, but leaders with integrity do their best to model these behaviors often. Integrity is a key quality of leaders that people want to follow.