Turn on your TV. Tap your news app. Scan the paper’s stories of the day. It seems that everywhere you turn, a lot of the news points to leaders who are either struggling with or striving to prove their integrity.
No doubt, you may feel like integrity is at stake nowadays. Just think of what’s at the heart of the banter taking place among the 2016 presidential hopefuls. Or, consider how the resignation of high-profile executives due to integrity-related issues almost seems like an everyday affair. While integrity may seem like a virtue of the past, for truly Disciplined Leaders, it’s a value of the present and a guiding principle for the future of their organizations, their communities and even the world.
What exactly is “integrity”? It’s about being honest in all you say and do. In the realm of business and leadership, honesty is a strategy for achieving success, or a way to do things in a moral, ethical manner. It’s also a characteristic of Disciplined Leaders, or those who consistently excel at using the right mindset and actions to inspire transformation and drive results.
Many modern leaders assess their values, usually in an exercise that’s related to developing their business plans or revolutionary ideas. In our business consulting, where we’ve coached over 170,000 individuals and 15,000 organizations since 1960, we’ve found most company executives or managers land on some version of “integrity” as one of their core values. In fact, it’s rare for a leader to be interviewed about his or her values and not mention this very word. Integrity is almost always a compass by which they lead, a tool for navigating their journey. Integrity is important to their purpose, passion, and potential for success.
So why do some leaders struggle with integrity? Simple: It can be hard to maintain it, particularly given the pressures to compete and succeed at all costs. Yet we find the best leaders create habits that support their commitment to uphold integrity come hell or high water. Here’s what some of these masters in ethical leadership fearlessly do:
Communicate the organization’s version of integrity. Leaders who honor integrity know their people need to understand what it means, the expectations that are set around it, and what integrity is and is not in a given workplace culture. Disciplined Leaders put it in black and white, such as in a company code of ethics, employee handbook, and even in job descriptions, for all to clearly see. Policies around honesty are the seeds from which other policies can then grow and flourish.
Align integrity with vital goals. When setting a critical objective, the question is always asked, “Does this goal support my commitment to lead, develop and succeed according to truth and honesty?” The question becomes a litmus test for making decisions big as well as small, knowing it’s sometimes the most insignificant decisions that suddenly can be spun into something of greater, more significant impact.
Rock the status quo. Leaders know that as agents of change, a break from the norm must happen, particularly when “the norm” is not reflective of what’s morally right or best for the greater good of a team, company, community, country, etc. They stand up for truth and maintain that stand with unwavering focus and energy.
Deal with being unpopular. To uphold integrity, leaders sometimes must make decisions that aren’t condoned by their colleagues or others in their professional circle. This may come when the aforementioned status quo gets rocked, or it could come from more “event-driven” measures, for example, cost-cutting measures triggering a leader’s need to make integrity-based decisions around managing company resources versus the bottom line.
Embrace accountability partners and solutions. Knowing full well they are human and will undoubtedly make mistakes, Disciplined Leaders humbly call upon others to support them in their integrity-based journey. They commonly build a small, trusted network of coaches, mentors, and confidants who hold up the mirror to reflect truths, give feedback when it’s needed most, and pose the questions that will drive these leaders to develop and implement the best solutions.
John Manning is the president of Management Action Programs Inc. (MAP) and author of the new release, “The Disciplined Leader: Keeping the Focus on What Really Matters.” MAP is a general management consulting firm headquartered in Los Angeles, CA. Since 1960, MAP has tapped its talent and expertise to help 170,000 leaders and 15,000 organizations nationwide create breakthrough results.
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