Leading with Integrity

Leadership

Leading with Integrity

Some years ago I had to dismiss a team member who was great at his job and he and his wife had become good family friends. The reason was simple; he had made a fatal error of judgement and in doing so had, to the wider team, lost his integrity.

The label of integrity is hard to earn and yet it can be lost in a single action. I am not even sure it is something we consciously look for in someone but we notice when it is missing.

It is only after we have considered our own actions, evaluating how they align with our personal values, intentions, and deeds, that we are most likely to make a contribution of integrity to the world.

We are each responsible for our own integrity and the best leaders create cultures that nourish the integrity of others.

At its root of the word integrity we find; to “integer” and “integrate”, it speaks of unity and wholeness. We still think of the word in this original sense when we talk about “structural integrity,” the quality that enables a building to stand and that, when lost, lets a building collapse under its own weight.

As US Rabbi, Jonathon Omer-Man said, “Integrity is the ability to listen to the place inside oneself that doesn’t change, even though the life that carries it may change.” 

Most of us evolve and develop throughout our journey as leaders. Our character and our integrity are remembered long after the glitter of the deals has faded.

Having integrity leads to the building of trust as we practice honest conversations with others. Integrity is a positive deposit in the bank of our connections.

Trust is an inherent part of integrity. People need to trust that leadership is serving everyone’s best interest and leadership needs to trust that team members are fulfilling their own responsibilities.

HOW DO WE IMPROVE LEADERSHIP INTEGRITY?

This possibly varies person to person but the following points, in my opinion, cover integrity within leadership.

  •  Respect - practice integrity with others by treating them with respect — even when they do not live up to your personal expectations of them. Recognise that your own standards can be subject to question. We get and give the best of each other in a culture that supports respect.
  •  Reliability - This is a more functional definition of integrity and a basic practise of a natural leader. It includes showing a little humility, keeping promises, meeting important deadlines and being there when people need you.
  • Sharing - It’s important for leaders to clearly articulate their values and expectation of integrity. Share these values as a culture-building objective as to how we collectively define integrity.
  •  Responsibility - We need to acknowledge our responsibility for every one of our actions. It demonstrates that we are not using other people or external events as the cause of our problems. Wherever possible blame no one, accept the behaviour of others and the circumstances of an action as a given, and move forward.
  •  Considered Actions - This is the leader’s obligation to take the right action. It means embodying our integral principles and accepting the consequences for our actions.
  •  Thinking 360° - Think of the whole not just this one problem or decision, integrity can be viewed as a culture of wholeness, of being able to support all of the components for the long term good of all.

I have to admit that I have on numerous occasions made decisions or taken a course of action that would not withstand scrutiny of the points above. This is where self-awareness comes in and that question; “What is the correct course?” and remember life is a journey, good and bad……we can only do our best as we see it at the time!

Corporate responsibility and integrity make strange if not incompatible bed fellows and over the years have formed much discussion over the dinner table. In this article I am really only trying to examine questions of integrity in leadership.

Examining integrity at an intellectual level seems to raise more questions than answers. Mistakes will always made and occasionally poor judgement will be shown. Importantly we are now aware of some of the questions and it’s what we learn and how we adapt to our mistakes that we should now contemplate.


Neil Steggall

Partner at Wardour Capital Partners

Neil is the CEO of Wardour Capital Partners, leading emerging growth & mid tier advisors. He is also a Non Executive Director of Family Planning Australia and The Australia Asia Business Alliance. Neil is an experienced director & corporate mentor and has chaired or served on numerous board committees including finance & audit, governance, compliance, strategy, acquisition, remuneration & ethics.


Comments (7)
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John Belchamber

John Belchamber, Owner & Senior Consultant at Invoke Results

A complex topic Neil and one I'm sure anyone who has been in a management/leadership role can relate too. There are many facets to integrity, but to pick just one... Acting with integrity is not the same as having integrity. When time are tough we often see the difference. When times are good, it is easier for leaders to act with integrity towards their people and their organisation. But when times are tough, the waters become muddier. Ultimately, a manager's responsibility is the longevity of their business/organisation. Sometimes decisions that demonstrate integrity to the business may not be seen the same way by employees....especially where their jobs are concerned. Consistency and communication are important factors if a leaders is to be seen as having integrity in good times and bad. When leaders ensure people know how things really are, when tough decisions need to be made in order to keep an organisation going, they are more likely to be understood (if not liked) by employees.

Wendy Huang

Wendy Huang, Full Time Blogger and YouTuber at A Custom Blog in 4 Minutes

Hi Neil, One of my personal values is to act with integrity, but even though it is a value of mine, given a terrible environment, keeping in integrity is even more challenging than usual. I see acting with integrity actually a really difficult thing to do consistently and very easy to lose. I love these reminders you give us of the right things to consider. This article has actually come at the perfect time for me personally :)

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