Leaders thrive on integrity. Many leaders have failed to uphold their end of the integrity bargain resulting in selling out their souls to greed. Conversely, great leaders understand the fragility of integrity. Once it’s gone, it’s challenging to recover.
Arguably, integrity is the bedrock of leadership. Any leader worth their salt understands the hard work it takes to succeed in any chosen profession. For the Army, my soldiers must know that I’m trustworthy. How could I be honest if I do not have integrity?
I’ll talk more about how honest people get the better-end of the bargaining table. The road is often less-traveled, but if negotiated correctly, the people with integrity wins.
Honest people create solutions
In the military, we’re taught to take the harder right instead of, the easier wrong. It’s easy to cut a corner, skim from the top, or evade a promise from someone who cannot provide meaningful help to you.
Unfortunately, in this quid-pro-quo world, honest leaders get a bad reputation for trying to do the right thing. How easy is it to shrug off responsibility for problems?
Honest leaders find solutions to problems that hurt others in the future. Former Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Army General (R) Martin Dempsey recounted his experience in his book No Time For Spectators about integrity.
General Dempsey was on patrol with his platoon when he noticed that he did not have the radio frequencies on his person. Usually, leaders wore the radio frequencies around their necks for security. These are sensitive items because if the enemy got these frequencies, then the entire operational force would be in jeopardy with the enemy listening in on those radio nets. Not to mention, it takes an asinine amount of time and effort to change these frequencies, republish them, and then change the radios for the entire force—all of this trouble caused by an avoidable offense.
General Dempsey backtracked on his patrol and found the frequencies at their previous rest stop near a pole where he sat down just 30 minutes earlier. Usually, a loss of frequencies is a report the higher.
General Dempsey called up his mistake. His example of ownership highlighted his integrity, which allowed him to remain in his position.
Subordinates trust honest leaders
Have you had a leader you did not trust? It’s challenging to work for these leaders because you don’t know if what they do/say is accurate. That hinders work production and stifles relationships.
Subordinates receive better feedback from honest leaders. Great feedback happens because employees know that their fair boss is trying to build up the employee. I have received feedback from people with and without integrity. I have noticed the difference between these two experiences, and I was more willing to follow the one with integrity.
I once had a great boss for a short time. She had my best interests in mind, and she had integrity. If I needed correcting, she coached me. When I made a mistake that affected the team, she proactively confronted her boss with the error, took responsibility, and then coached me on how to correct the situation. I had to have the integrity to tell her the problem in the first place, too. She was tough on me, but I understood why. She wanted me to improve and be the best soldier I could be. That takes effort, trust, and loyalty to get subordinates to buy-into that message. It all starts with integrity and being honest with yourself.
Leaders with integrity are priceless
These are the people who move organizations forward. Great leaders are accountable, responsible, and exert tireless effort to ensure the success of their teams. Bosses with integrity can connect with others, especially during times of need.
Leaders with integrity identify problems because they’re not going to shy away from negative consequences. The attitude these people have is to move toward a common goal, which is priceless for any organization.
One tricky part I have learned about integrity is that leaders must know when to break the rules. With that in mind, office regulations and societal laws exist for a reason. However, the difference between one who has integrity and someone who doesn’t is the attitude displayed when called on the carpet.
The one with integrity will take responsibility for their actions. They’ll accept the consequence and create a plan to avoid breaking the rule again or will advocate for a new change by promoting a unique solution. Also, leaders with integrity will not tolerate unnecessary rule-breaking. A good rule of thumb to follow is: only bend or break a regulation if you’re willing to accept the follow-on consequence.
Conversely, people without integrity will not take responsibility for their actions. They’ll justify their reasons for breaking a rule, and place blame on others for their mistake. Also, leaders who aren’t honest will avoid taking responsibility for the errors of their team and will avoid coaching those who are struggling. They’ll see themselves as better than others, and will tear down the accomplishments of their peers and subordinates.
I understand these are harsh words for this post. Now, I hope you know why leaders who have integrity are priceless. Know this difference.
I’ll admit that this post was mostly common sense compared to other articles I have written. Either someone has integrity, or they do not. If you’re trying to work on it, here are some evaluation questions to ask yourself:
- Am I doing what’s right even when no one is watching?
- Is there someone that needs my help, and I jump to assist?
- Am I taking responsibility for issues that involve me?
If you want a book review for General Dempsey’s book, you can find it here.
Ask yourselves these questions, and you’ll find yourself evaluating how to make your work experience better.
What experiences have you had with honest people? Dishonest?