"In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don't have the first, the other two will kill you."
CEO, Berkshire Hathaway
Integrity is an unshakeable foundation stone that guides leaders to do the right thing. It is integral to worthy leadership. Leaders with integrity have clear, strong values and the courage of these convictions. The biggest challenge is for leaders to genuinely and consistently execute their roles with integrity. Words are cheap, but it is impossible to fake authenticity in the long term. The edifices that leaders build will eventually collapse in the absence of integrity.
We value leaders who demonstrate vision and deliver results and in the last twenty years we have added emotional intelligence to the must have list for aspirant leaders. Invariably, we end up having some leaders in senior roles who lack integrity, even though it is the one capability that should never be compromised. If you hire a leader who offers many valuable assets but lacks integrity, people will follow them for the short-term and in the good times. But in challenging times and when a leader is not able to provide material rewards, people quickly become disenchanted.
Integrity stems from the Latin word integer, which means ‘whole’ and ‘complete.’ It is reflected through actions, words, decisions, processes and outcomes that perfectly align with what is often described as an internal moral compass. When you are ‘whole’ and consistent, people know you at a deeper level. They can reliably and confidently predict how you will act and respond, whatever the circumstances. Integrity is often described as doing what you say you will do. It is true that leaders with integrity constantly honour their values and commitments. They are constant. Integrity is also not doing what is clearly unacceptable and/or self-serving.
It is clearly not acceptable to lie, bully or steal and it is also unacceptable to not call out destructive behaviour and to put personal ambition ahead of truth telling. I see many examples of leaders who lack integrity and whose overriding value is protecting their self-interest. I also see many examples of leaders doing their best to act with integrity in environments that tempt them to – and even demand that they – behave in ways that make them uneasy. And I have had the privilege of working with a few leaders who have had their integrity tested and who have stayed true.
Integrity needs to be a lively, ongoing, action-oriented conversation topic in organisations. When working with strategy, exploring values with a team is my favourite aspect. Values are the expression of corporate spiritual excellence. They are the most deeply held belief system in the organisation and they can always be traced back to the founders. The most important consideration is whether the corporate values are being consistently acted upon and modelled by leaders. If there is a big gap between the rhetoric and the reality, then organisational ill-health develops which, if left unaddressed, will lead to a major system failure at some point.
Integrity is a most powerful force when paired with courage. Opportunities to show integrity are not always dramatic. Sometimes it is as subtle as speaking up when we are uncomfortable with what is being expressed or done. This week I had a coaching session with a coachee in a large organisation. Her manager is not coping with the uncertainty of leading during COVID-19. Her overriding message to the team is that everyone is adjusting well, doing a great job and that positive results are being achieved. My client is having a different reality and knows that many others are feeling the same. But there is no space to express a different, less positive viewpoint. The dilemma for my client is how to put forward a variation on the prevailing narrative to open up a more honest conversation. Her unease at staying silent is a clear indicator that her integrity is unsettled.
Integrity is an unwavering, continual endeavour. The questions below are typical of the ones I invite clients to reflect on. They can be tailored to explore a particular issue or challenge:
- What do I stand for?
- What are my core values?
- How do I express my values through my work?
- How am I a role model?
- How clear is my leadership conscience?
- How do I create a values-based culture?
Integrity is the core value that must underpin all leadership endeavours to influence significant change. It is staying true – being earthed in a set of clear, strong values which are consistently expressed in everything we say and do. If you act with integrity, you have nothing to hide. Everyone, including you, gains peace of mind, as there is confidence that you will do the right thing.
You will be experienced as a rock – solid, strong and grounded.
FOLLOW THIS MAP
In my book- The Worthy Leader – I couple two universal and timeless notions – wisdom and leadership to speed up leadership development and improve business outcomes. The Map below provides a comprehensive picture of all the developmental elements you need to switch on to accelerate your growth. The map has five key elements, each of which has three coordinates. In this article, I explore – integrity - as nothing is more important than being true on our leadership development journey.
The interdependent map elements are listed below:
- Knowing – The cognitive element: Our self-awareness, and perspective that will help us lead innovatively through this crisis.
- Connecting – The emotional element: The relationships we invest in that return loyalty and teamwork during challenging times
- Being – The spiritual element: Our calm self-belief, sense of purpose and character will steady us and reassure our teams.
- Discerning – The element of insight: How we think systemically, hold ourselves to account and make the best, often tough decisions, sometimes in haste and with insufficient data, as the crisis unfolds.
- Delivering – The element of action: The actions we take in an unknown space, resulting in better outcomes.
- Impact – This concerns consequences: The lasting positive impact our decisions and actions can have on our teams, peers, the business and ourselves.
Maryanne Mooney has never been so inspired to help leaders connect with their potential and encouraging them to act on it. Her goal is to help leaders navigate their challenges and to support their growth. She does this through the power of meaningful and practical conversations. In the past 25 years, Maryanne has worked on five continents with more than 10,000 leaders and teams. Her focus is leadership, team and organization development, across all industry sectors. Her experience includes building two consulting firms that were market leaders. Maryanne lives in Australia and works with leading organizations throughout the world. She is an executive coach, president of the Board for the USA Senhoa Foundation and a YPO Spouse and Certified Forum Facilitator. Maryanne's method to coach leaders develop faster on their journey to wisdom is outlined in her recently published book – The Worthy Leader – From Mastery to Potential. The book is available on her website – www.worthyleader.net.
Maryanne will be writing a weekly column in this newsletter, drawing on her book and years of leadership development experience, to provide practical tips about how to be a worthy leader, in troubled times.
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