Integrity, The No. 1 Leadership Quality

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.”(Abraham Lincoln)

Leadership as one of the most widely discussed and debated topics is also one of the most demanding sports activities for any individual, regarding leadership as a sports activity. A leader has to be fit both mentally and physically, having the capability of combining both spurts and long-distance activities into leadership practices.

Expectations upon leaders are manifold. In today´s corporate world, leaders are often evaluated through corporate surveys and employee feedback questionnaires/ discussions, also called 360 degree feedback reviews. Politicians receive feedback through media and from voters. At least in democratic states where freedom of speech exists, where all citizens have equal possibilities, and equal human rights.

The importance of leadership is emphasized through the amount of discussion around, and research upon the topic, well-known journals and other media regularly publishing articles upon, and lists about, desired and important leadership qualities. Try to find a list of the most highly valued leadership qualities excluding INTEGRITY. Let me know if you can find one. I have not until this day.

A quick Google search with the keywords “integrity synonyms” gives the following top result:

integrity

ɪnˈtɛɡrɪti/

noun

noun: integrity

1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.

“a gentleman of complete integrity”

synonyms: honesty, uprightness, probity, rectitude, honour, honourableness, upstandingness, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, nobility, high-mindedness, right-mindedness, noble-mindedness, virtue, decency, fairness, scrupulousness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness

“I never doubted his integrity”

antonyms: dishonesty
       

2. the state of being whole and undivided.

“upholding territorial integrity and national sovereignty”

synonyms: unity, unification, wholeness, coherence, cohesion, undividedness, togetherness, solidarity, coalition

“internal racial unrest threatened the integrity of the federation”

antonyms: division
       
  • the condition of being unified or sound in construction.

“the structural integrity of the novel”

synonyms: soundness, robustness, strength, sturdiness, solidity, solidness, durability, stability, stoutness, toughness

“the structural integrity of the aircraft”

   
       
  • internal consistency or lack of corruption in electronic data.

“integrity checking”

WHY is integrity such an important leadership quality?

Top reasons for this:

  • Integrity is morally and ethically correct behavior
  • Integrity is human
  • Integrity is democratic
  • Integrity is highly valued by all human and democratic individuals
  • Integrity is authentic, truthful and honest
  • Integrity is not just talking the talk, but also walking the walk
  • Integrity is a part of any individual´s moral compass, and a tool for making not only things right, but also making the right things
  • Integrity is an essential part of conscious, ethical leadership, preventing immoral actions such as corruption, and enhancing transparency
  • Leaders with integrity are more concerned with the common goal than their personal ambition

Suggested further reading:

EY – Growing Beyond: a place for integrity. 12th Global Fraud Survey.

George, B. 2007. True North. Discover your Authentic Leadership.

Transparency International. The Global Coalition Against Corruption. Publications.

“Just as a compass points toward a magnetic field, your True North pulls you toward the purpose of your leadership. When you follow your internal compass, your leadership will be authentic, and people will naturally want to associate with you. Although others may guide or influence you, your truth is derived from your life story and only you can determine what it should be.”

(True North, From the Introduction). 

“If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)

 “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

 “In countries where innocent people are dying, leaders are following blood rather than brains.” (Nelson Mandela)

 “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” (Nelson Mandela)
 
An individual who practices what he/she preaches is predictable, removing emotions of threat, developing trust. showing others consistency (unknown).

 http://bit.ly/BalanceOscarWinningCartoon

 “A rotten apple spoils the barrel. Plant your seeds well.” 

How Can You Be Truly Convincing?

“By 2029, computers will have emotional intelligence and be convincing as people”. (Ray Kurzweil, Brainyquote.com. 12.11.2014)

Do you believe in a future where computers have emotional intelligence? Can emotional intelligence be integrated into computers, when not even all human beings are capable of maximizing their potential in terms of emotional intelligence? 

If you have ever worked in sales, you know how important it is to not only sound, but to actually BE, convincing. In fact, this applies to others than just salespeople, or, put in a wider perspective, we all kind of work in sales, at all times, and in all situations in life. 

However, being convincing is not a synonym to being truthful. Although sales, as any other performance, should always include being truthful, there are always people who do not care so much about the truth, or who prefer creating their own truth. We find examples of these across society, of people who convince themselves first, and are color-blind to truth. I have once before quoted Anaïs Nin in this perspective: “We do not see the world as it is. We see it as we are”. 

Throughout centuries, truth has been discussed by philosophers, with a number of frameworks and theories built around a single word with so much meaning. Without going deeper into the different philosophical theories about truth, I just want to pinpoint that truth can be personal, and what is true to another individual, is not necessarily true to you. Some people are very convincing without actually telling the truth (a common truth that applies to the majority of people). There are many sad stories about individuals living their personal truths with a lack of morals, and humanity. Without having to explain further, I am pretty sure that you can think of a number of these. 

What does it take to be convincing? It is quite simple: 

Being convincing requires having confidence and trust in yourself. 

You also need to be convinced about the matter/product/situation. Selling Snow from the Sahara requires your personal conviction about the existence of snow in the Sahara. It is impossible to sell something that actually does not exist – that would equal to fooling your clients. 

In solution-based, client-oriented selling you can of course, in cooperation with your customer, define their needs, and based on those needs, create a tailored solution for them. That is problem-solving with and for the client. But you cannot promise a client that you can provide them with snow from the Sahara when you both know that there is no snow in the Sahara. And even if your customer does not know this, YOU know. 

Conviction includes taking moral responsibility in the first place. It also requires technical knowledge about what it is you are offering. All too often it is a fact that clients are offered various kinds of solutions by people who do not even know their products well enough. This includes not only a risk for the customer, who pays for the service/product, but also risks for the service/product provider: low quality leads to unsatisfied customers, and is a real slap in the face in regards to your brand’s image and reputation. 

Want to act morally and truthfully correct? Integrate the following into your (work) life: 

– Do not get involved into anything that is against your personal values/morals/knowledge/beliefs.

– Always be truthful to your clients/people around you.

– Know your product/service before actually offering it to your clients. If there is something you do not know, make sure to inform yourself so that you do not let your clients down.

– Take responsibility. True professionals and experts have not only a broad knowledge in their field, but are also continuously developing themselves, and seek to transform their knowledge into wisdom. 

– Live as you teach. There is no point in saying something, but acting in the opposite way. 

“You cannot convince anyone of anything. You can only give them the right information in order for them to convince themselves”. (Eben Pagan. Quote Essays.com. 12.11.2014).