As someone who has both been a leader and been led, it has become clear to me that good leaders are consistent in their character – they have integrity. Their values and behaviour are consistent whether in public or private.
Building sites have long been a fascination for me. Particularly the bigger building projects for office blocks. When the wooden boards go up around a site it invites my curiosity as to what is happening inside. It is interesting that the builders always dig down before they build up. A big hole in the ground appears and it may be some months before you actually see something appear above ground level. The reason for all this below ground activity is that the integrity of the building depends on the strength of its foundation.
In leadership, integrity is a foundation block of trust. A leader’s integrity is measured by whether what they do matches what they say, consistently. For some leaders, integrity is often only skin deep. The deception here is the thought that people don’t see this. But as we walk through the challenges of life, such as a pandemic, the integrity of those leading in this way is revealed.
Who would you rather be following? Someone who does what they say they will do or someone who changes their mind as soon as they have left the room?
Integrity is foundational
Integrity is evidence of internal values that are focused on others. A lack of integrity generally indicates the opposite. Integrity is about doing the right things even if there is a personal cost to carrying that through. As leaders it is one of the greatest qualities we can possess.
Personal integrity means that those you lead will be able to rely on your word. It means they will not have to waste time thinking about whether you will change your mind. They can continue in the knowledge that no matter what, they can rely on your words. If you have personal integrity, your team are more likely to trust you.
“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.”
Sometimes our circumstances change which will make us want to go back on our word. As Brené Brown says, it takes courage to stick with your word at times. However, if what you’ve promised is still the right thing to do, then carry it out. It will be an investment in your future self. It may not be fun, fast or easy, but it will build a foundation of trust in the relationships around you.
Integrity is also fundamental in creating the right kind of culture in your team. Without it, the glue of trust between people is missing. As Stephen M. R. Covey has said, “the speed of trust is the speed of the team.”
So, what kind of leader are you going to be? I hope you’ll decide to be one full of integrity. Integrity is not built quickly but it provides the very strength a team needs to succeed. It may be expedient to not follow through on what you have said, but what cannot be calculated is the damage done to people’s trust in you, trust that is needed to maximise innovation, creativity and productivity in your team.
Choose to value people and add value to them. In so doing you will develop integrity.