The Leaders Notebook

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The Real Measure of Integrity

November 20th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Follow the Leaders, Leadership Lessons from the Links, Thoughts on Life and Leadership

Over and over in leadership competency models, 360’s and research, integrity shows up as a fundamental leadership capacity.  Perhaps even THE fundamental leadership capacity.  Integrity is not just about doing the right thing.  In the realm of leadership, it is measured by behaving in a way consistent with the values you espouse – especially when it is hard.

Sometimes, a decision to act in a way contrary to our own short term gain is a struggle.  We know the right thing, but there are dozens of voices whispering in our ear about reasons to make a more expedient choice.  Great leaders are the ones who reserve their internal struggles for situations where right action is not clear.  I admire those who do not consider the choice a choice at all, but simply recognition of what is true.  And even if the decision is unpopular, painful for the organization and difficult to swallow, making the call with integrity builds trust in a way that easier decisions never can.

Our culture makes it easy to cheat and in fact encourages a certain amount of bending the rules in favor of self interest.  The “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying” mindset that can be found in NASCAR, baseball, NCAA sports and of course, in meeting rooms across the land misses the point.  Aside from the risk of being found out, organizations that win through artificial means simply reinforce their vulnerability.  And a culture which turns a blind eye to cheating in the market naturally attracts cheaters, which in turn means that the company must guard against being cheated.

J.P. Hayes describes the situation accurately.  Once he realized that he had played an illegal ball in the tournament, he was already disqualified.  All he did was call to tell the committee about it.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Hsuan-hua Chang

    I think when we talk about “the real measure of integrity”, we need to examine the context.

    Living life, we have our personal values. Working in the organization, we have our organizational values.

    For example, one of the my personal values is “open communication” and one of my organizational values is commitment to the stock holders. When I, as a leader, need to make a decision in an organization context, I might not be able to honor my personal commitment of “open communication”.

    That’s the challenge part in the realm of leadership. Sport players might have clear rules and organization leaders don’t have that black and white boundaries.