Out of all my research and experience, I have found that integrity is the most important virtue for a leader. It’s what makes a good leader, a great leader, humble leader, reliable leader, and respectable leader. Many articles and books write about leadership virtues being; respect, honesty, humility, courage, patience and/or openness. They touch on integrity, but I haven’t found many that highlight and focus solely on integrity. Especially from a perspective of a leader who is not in a role, or “title”, of leadership.
Good moral judgment, honesty, consistency, continuity/fairness, respect…are just a few attributes typically associated with someone of good integrity. Webster’s dictionary defines integrity as someone who is firm to a code of especially moral conduct or artistic values. This article will go over these traits individually, and outline how they are manifested in an individual’s leadership style.
As a leader, you must have good moral judgment. A question you can ask yourself is; Am I frequently being trusted to handle special tasks or projects? The answer to that question will show you the level of respect and credibility you’ve gained. These are intrinsic rewards to integrity. More than this question; Are you fulfilling your current job duties? Are you asking questions when you need help, so that you can complete tasks? Are you enabling yourself to go above and beyond the call of duty? Good moral judgment is much more than just knowing the right and wrong of ethics. It is the ownership and unity of ethics in your own personal judgment.
“Moral excellence comes about as a result if habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brand acts”
Honesty is what will prove whether your moral judgment is good or bad. It defines your trustworthiness. In this case, your actions will speak volumes. Do you have the company’s best interest in mind? Are you mindful of your team? Or, are you only trying to benefit yourself? Don’t give your leadership any reason to think you’re being dishonest. I’ve seen it over and over, when someone seems like they have a vendetta, they also come off as being dishonest. Be mindful of your actions. Practice what you preach. Associate yourself with good company.
“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company”
Consistency should not be confused with continuity or fairness. Where consistency relates to your actions/attitude over time, and continuity or fairness relates to your actions/attitude between each task or individual. Good leaders remain consistent, but great leaders consistently grow and perform better. It’s always good to ask yourself if you’re improving, or focusing on improving, from yesterday. Are you consistently reliable? Diligent? Trustworthy?
“Leadership can’t be fabricated. If it is fabricated or rehearsed, you can’t fool the guys in the locker room. So, when you talk about leadership, it comes with performance. Leadership comes with consistency.”
Continuity or fairness is how you relate between each task or individual. This is how you gain respect and credibility. This particular character trait really only comes out when we’re thrown a curve ball. How do you handle a new policy, procedure, or process? How do you deal with barriers or hardships? Let’s look at a bridge for example: It’s purposes is to carry vehicles over something (road, revine, gorge, canyon, etc). The continuity of handling wear-and-tear, to handling an earthquake, should be the same to maintain its integrity. There must be structure and accountability to maintain continuity in leadership. For the bridge, its structure is providing the same service routinely, and its accountability is the checks performed regularly for it to maintain its integrity.
“The supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it no real success is possible…”
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Respect is an earned reward achieved through exemplifying the above qualities. Without it, no real leadership happens. Followers must buy your vision, respect you, and consider you a credible source. Lee Cockerell writes in his book, Creating Magic, about the acronym RAVE; respect, appreciate and value everyone. This absolutely outlines where respect is given, respect is received. Always remember, performing RAVE doesn’t entitle you to the respect of others. You must display the above attributes of integrity. Showing that you feel entitled will only cause you to lose respect and credibility.
“Men are respectable only as they respect”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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