Keys to Trust: Integrity

Integrity is a funny thing. Everyone wants to claim they have it, especially leaders, but few do the things that matter to make it a reality. I don’t think people intentionally act without integrity in mind, but remaining a person of integrity is a conscious decision with intentional actions.

Keys To Trust Series - Integrity Leadership

At the end of letters, it is common to see “Sincerely”. The practice dates back to ancient Rome. When a marble statue contained cracks, some artists would use melted beeswax to conceal the flaws. After the wax dried it would crumble, thus exposing the flaws and cracks. Reputable sculptors warrantied their work as sine sera, meaning “without wax”. Now, sincerely is a sign of trust and integrity.

Over the last three weeks, I’ve covered three aspects that I believe are important components of a person of integrity. These may not be the only components of integrity, but from a leadership perspective, these three are integral to integrity. A leader with integrity will have authenticity, be fair, and honest. Our friends Merriam-Webster seem to agree as they define integrity as the quality of being honest and fair.

Let’s recap to see how they fit into a leader of integrity.

Integrity Requires Authenticity

A common definition of authenticity from the psychological aspect is “living one’s life according to the needs of one’s inner being, rather than the demands of society”. An easier way to look at it is “to thine own self be true.” Above all, be genuine, be real, be authentic.

Authenticity builds a higher level of trust through accountability. Since leadership is about building trust and influence, showing people the real person helps to build trust. People want that real person to be a good person however. No hidden agendas.

To be authentic, you must be transparent and even vulnerable. Here are 7 things to do to be more authentic as a leader.

  • Be self-aware

  • Be intentional

  • Be connected

  • Values based

  • Listen

  • Be yourself

  • Practice what you preach

Integrity Requires Fairness

Fair does not mean equal. You cannot treat everyone the exact same way in a warm and fuzzy approach. You will end up with everyone winning a trophy for one or two members hard work. Sure, you may think the whole team is winning, but when the hard workers get tired of pulling the weight, they’ll look elsewhere and then what?

When you reward someone, do it fairly. That means if a person is a consistent performer, reward. If someone is consistently average, motivate them. The two types don’t deserve equal treatment.

Since the Chicago Cubs just won the World Series, I’ll use baseball as an analogy. Imagine your the team manager Joe Maddon. A deep hit into right field is caught by the right fielder, you would not praise the pitcher as a result of the great catch to be equal just as you wouldn’t praise the 3rd baseman when the pitcher strikes out a batter. The positions have different roles, purposes, and rules to play by.

High performers are often belittled by “equal” treatment of less performing co-workers. I remember pushing hard to be a high performer and taking hit from the average people who always looked out for what was in it for themselves. Jealously often manifests itself in crusaders claiming things are unfair.

Integrity Requires Honesty

Some information cannot be repeated. Our government leaders cannot tell us everything we ask. That doesn’t mean they are necessarily lying to us, rather they have also sworn an oath to protect some information in the interest of national security. Other issues that may seem sticky are personnel issues. Leaders cannot spew information about co-workers in an attempt to be honest with the whole team. A lot of information is protected.

Sometimes the best practice is honestly saying you can’t comment on a situation. This will most likely cause you as the leader more work and headaches as people pry for information. Stick to your guns and show that honesty is your game, but being a leader of integrity is part of it.

At the end of the day, honesty really is the best policy. Dave Ramsey (@DaveRamsey) talks about the importance of being honest in Entreleadership. In the book, Dave mentions that sometimes private things come up and he refuses to lie about it. Taking the high road is harder, but when a leader who has built trust and influence among the team says they can’t talk about something, the team trusts the leader is doing the right thing.

Integrity is Part of Character

Just as commitment is a part of character, integrity is balancing the other side. Showing that you are committed to something, especially your team, helps to build on the character you possess. Remaining a person of integrity will fortify your character and help build trust quicker.

What Are You Going To Do?

Question: What are you going to do this week to build integrity as a leader? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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