Integrity is the bedrock of good leadership. Honest people believe in honest leaders, which creates a healthy work environment. There’s no doubt that we, as leaders, should understand why integrity is important.
There are three main reasons why integrity is important.
Honest Leaders Create Honest Organizations
In the military, we’re taught to take responsibility for our actions. Since I have been in the military, I have seen leaders lose their way due to dishonesty, which reflected poorly on themselves.
Conversely, I have seen great organizations prosper because their leaders made integrity a priority in their lives.
For example, my first duty assignment was an outstanding Military Police unit. The leadership emphasized accountability and improvement to foster a creative and innovative environment.
When I left that assignment, I continued to follow that leadership team until they transitioned to other units. As new leaders came, I saw a continued emphasis on accountability and integrity throughout the organization.
I saw further growth within that organization because the leaders took time to emphasize honesty and ownership. I will always remember those leaders who taught me to be honest in the large and small matters of military duty.
Honest leaders reflect on future impacts instead of concentrating on short-term losses. Former Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Army General (R) Martin Dempsey recounted his experience with an integrity-testing dilemma in his book No Time For Spectators.
General Dempsey’s Mistake
General Dempsey went on frequent patrols with his platoon in Bayreuth, Germany. While on patrol, Dempsey lost an item used to manually encrypt messages.
Usually, the item consisted of laminated cards hung around the platoon leader’s neck by a string. Negligence in handling sensitive information is usually a career-ending offense for many.
Dempsey retraced his steps and found the laminated cards at the platoon’s previous rest stop. Even though the patrol found Dempsey’s lamented cards, Dempsey still had a choice.
He could continue the mission and forgo reporting that a sensitive item was lost. Or, he could report the loss.
The correct action was to report the loss. Dempsey reported the loss to his company commander. Afterward, an investigation began to establish the facts of the situation.
Following the investigation, Dempsey’s company commander wrote an internal memorandum to Dempsey that emphasized his duties to safeguard protected information.
This was far below the expected relief of duty and reassignment. Then, the case was closed.
Dempsey’s example of ownership highlighted his character. Even though the investigation was not ideal, reporting the loss was the correct response to a difficult situation.
Subordinates Trust Honest Leaders
Subordinates receive better feedback from honest leaders. Moreover, great feedback happens because employees know that their boss has a vision for the employee.
I have received feedback from great leaders in the past who I knew had my best interests in mind.
For instance, early in my career, I had a great boss who helped me understand the value of integrity.
She patiently coached me on a project after making a mistake that created a minor setback for her and the rest of the team. Instead, she approached her boss and took ownership of the situation by protecting my reputation in the organization.
From that moment, I knew that she had strong character because she was willing to take responsibility for her team even when I made a mistake. As a result, I worked hard for her because I wanted to support her efforts in the organization.
Good Leaders Are Accountable
Good leaders are accountable for their actions, even if the situation is uncomfortable.
For example, the book Extreme Ownership talked about an experience where the author described a friendly fire situation in Iraq. The unfortunate event caused two friendly forces to shoot at each other in a complex urban environment.
The authors, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin wrote about how those involved took ownership of the situation and held themselves to a higher standard afterward.
Many situations will not involve life or death, but consider other situations that allowed companies to thrive because they took ownership of their situations.
For instance, there’s a book called Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins, who took accountability seriously. After abuse, instability, and heartache, Goggins realized that he needed to account for his wrongdoings to change his life. He became responsible for his life and became successful.
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. Leaders who aren’t honest will also avoid taking responsibility for their team’s errors and avoid coaching struggling employees.
Leaders who have integrity are priceless.
Leaders with character are critical to today’s work environments. Learn to accept responsibility in the smallest aspects of your life, and you’ll learn the first steps of leadership. If you need, 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?
Ask yourselves these questions, and you’ll find yourself evaluating how to make your work experience better.
How do you stay accountable in your workplace? Let me know in the comments section below.
No Time for Spectators by General Martin Dempsey. Here’s a book review.
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Here’s a book review.
Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins. Here’s a book review.
Featured Image: by Mikael Blomkvist
1: by Rebrand Cities
2: by Savvas Stavrinos
3: by Brett Jordan