The Foundation Stones of Great Leadership – Part 1

The Foundation Stones of Great Leadership – Part 1

As I think about who to cast my vote for today, I am left with a deep unease at the state of
leadership in the UK. None of the above as a vote is not an option unfortunately! The
business environment can be equally devoid of good leadership. What makes a good
leader? Over this month I will explore what factors make for a better leader and offer some
helpful insights on how you can continue on your journey to lead well.

Integrity stands as a foundational quality that defines great leadership. However, there’s a
growing perception that integrity is often lacking among corporate leaders. Integrity, the
commitment to honesty and strong moral principles, is essential for fostering trust and
building a sustainable business.

Causes of a Lack of Integrity in Business

1. Profit Over Principles:

The pressure to achieve financial targets can sometimes lead leaders to compromise on ethical standards, prioritising short-term gains over long-term integrity. The truth is there is no such things as business ethics. You are either ethical or not.

2. Not Following Through:

I get it in the moment you can all make statements you wish you hadn’t. It is important to keep your word. At times this will mean sacrificing your own
comfort to follow through. Nothing erodes trust faster than not walking your talk. It means thinking through the consequences of what you say before you open your mouth in a public setting.

3. Lack of Transparency:

What are you hiding? Complexity can be used to keep things hidden. Transparency means you are open about what is happening and why it is happening. Operating with opaque processes, where decisions are made behind closed doors, opens you up to the perspective that you are hiding something. Something that may potentially harm your team. This lack of transparency can breed suspicion and distrust.

4. Weak Accountability:

As a leader you should not fear being accountable. At the very least it protects you and those who report to you. Without robust accountability mechanisms,
leaders may feel emboldened to act without regard for ethical standards, knowing they are unlikely to face significant consequences.

5. Cultural Norms:

In some company cultures, cutting corners and bending rules are tacitly accepted, making it difficult for leaders to uphold high standards of integrity. The answer is to change the culture. Make it clear that cutting corners, not doing your best is not acceptable around here.

Creating an Environment of Integrity

1. Transparency in Operations:

Foster a culture of openness by making decision-making processes transparent. Regularly communicate the rationale behind key decisions and provide access to relevant information. Do not protect information in the misguided assumption that people can’t handle it. Instead provide frameworks by which team members can evaluate things. Treat people like adults and they will act accordingly.

2. Strong Accountability Structures:

Implement independent oversight bodies and clear reporting mechanisms to ensure leaders are held accountable for their actions. Are your staff represented on such bodies? It can be difficult to be held accountable however the perception you are not will create far greater damage than any discomfort you may have.

3. Ethics Training:

Regularly conduct ethics training sessions to reinforce the importance of integrity and guide leaders through common ethical dilemmas. Tell stories within your company that demonstrate the ethics you want to see on display and behind any decisions being made.

4. Role Models:

Highlight and celebrate leaders who exemplify integrity. Use their stories to inspire others and set a benchmark for ethical behaviour. People do what people see. Make sure what they see is the kind of organisational behaviour you want repeated.

5. Engage Employees:

Create channels for employees to voice concerns and provide feedback on leadership practices. This engagement fosters a culture of integrity from the ground up. When you demonstrate you want to know the opinions of all in an organisation and show they are being listened to then you exhibit integrity and your employees will act in the same way with each other.

Integrity is the first of 4 characteristics to look at which underpin great leadership. Keep an eye for the next instalment.

Photo by Dulcey Lima on Unsplash

Picture of Mark Billage

Mark Billage

Mark’s passion is to help realise individuals’ potential, be they leaders or team members, through empowering organisational culture. He has spent 7 years leading an organisation based in the non profit sector. In that time, he focused on creating a culture that enabled and empowered individuals, with the aim of seeing a high performing team better able to achieve the organisation’s mission.

Our Vision

To train and equip leaders to transform culture, build successful teams and organisations where everyone is seen, heard and valued for their unique contribution.

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