To exhibit leadership means to show integrity in everything we do. However, there may be disagreement about what integrity is. I tend to break things down into actions. What is it that people do that leads us to perceive the as having integrity? As I started to think about this question it occurred to me that the answers I was coming up with sounded like the very things I have been stating are characteristics of a leadership mindset or the way an emboldened leader behaves.
Here are some of the actions that point to integrity for me:
- Continuous or Lifelong Learning: Leaders with integrity have a high degree of self-awareness that matches the perceptions of others. They don’t delude themselves into thinking they are perfect, but rather seek out opportunities to learn, grow, and continue to develop throughout their lives. Having integrity means you never see yourself as above others or above learning.
- Follow Through: Having integrity, perhaps above all else, means you do what you say you will do. Leaders with integrity follow through on agreements and promises. These means they are also considered reliable because people can count on them to do as they say they will do.
- Accountable: Leaders with integrity take ownership for their own actions and decisions whether or not the intended outcome happens. When things don’t go well, they don’t blame or shame others. When things do go well they share the success with everyone who was involved on the project.
- Grow and Develop Others: Leaders with integrity focus as much on the growth and development of others as on their own personal learning. They are responsive to their followers and others, and strive to serve the interests of others or the organization before serving their own personal interests.
- Do Right: Leaders with integrity have strong moral principles. They espouse the philosophy of doing what is right even when no one is watching. This may be what most people think of as having integrity.
- Treat others with Respect and Dignity: Years ago I worked for a leader, Pete Duarte, who had a high level of integrity. Even though we worked in the health care industry he used to say our job was R&D. But, in this case R&D stood for showing respect and dignity toward every person we came into contact with. This held true whether the person was a patient, and vendor, and patient family member, or a coworker. Everyone deserved to be treated with respect and dignity.
- Transparent Communicator: Integrity is shown by leaders who develop close relationships with those who follow them. It is extremely important that these relationships are based in frequent, accessible and highly transparent communication. Telling others the good, the bad, the unusual, and the implications of any decisions that might be made is key to exhibiting integrity. Too often leaders in organizations without information from their employees or make all the decisions without transparently talking with employees to gain their thoughts, ideas, and opinions before making decisions that will impact the employees. These types of leaders damage their reputation and come across as not having integrity. Open, accessible, and transparent communication leads to trusting relationships with all those who do business with the leader.