What does it mean to Lead with Integrity?
By Roman 3 Academy
Table of Contents
When discussing management skills, leading with integrity is something that has always been talked about in one way or another. It is an intellectual concept that is the foundation of business ethics, praised by all as something that everyone publicly feels is essential for all leaders; from frontline works to the highest office of governments. However, the public support for all leaders to have integrity as a core principle and the reality of people in authority actually leading with integrity are out of sync.
What is integrity?
It is important to define integrity and identify why it is so important. Integrity is broadly understood as the consistent devotion to a moral or ethical intention. It is about doing the right thing, every time. When it comes to leading with integrity, it is understood as “the act of being morally trustworthy, honest, true to oneself, and/or acting in accordance with what one says.”. This is a reasonable ideal for anyone who is being led by another. Everyone wants a leader who is honest, accountable, trustworthy, and follows through on what they say they will do. Sadly, despite this being what people want from their leadership, this is often now what people are provided.
It is easy to be cynical and call most leaders hypocrites who sell out their integrity as soon as they are in a position of power. Or to suggest that most leaders misrepresent their public commitment to integrity. The reality is that most people, and certainly most leaders, truly value leading with integrity. They might not fully understand it to the complex depth required to provide consistent integrity leadership.
The Mindset of Today’s Leaders
Today’s leaders need to make decisions quickly and decisively as new information hits them. Thanks to the digital age, we have massive amounts of information coming at us in the blink of an eye. We often need to make judgments and choices with little to no time to reflect or process. This makes us react with the first impulse or become heavily invested in our initial assumptions. This lack of ability to think critically or properly reflect and process our decisions can make us use shortcuts in how we use our judgment, make choices, and think. This type of thinking, this leadership cognition, can make us filter our thinking and decision-making through a mindset that might not be the most effective or productive.
A lot of leaders do not intentionally set out to create a mindset to filter their thinking through. They will often just react to information and make decisions based on their gut or emotional state of mind. This lack of intention in thinking can create a cognitive approach to leadership that is heavily influenced by emotion or by negative thinking habits, such as self-doubt or self-preservation. When leaders do not have a deliberate cognitive approach to their thinking or decision-making process then they run the risk of letting negative thinking habits influence their choices. By providing a method, or filtering system, leaders can have a clear and reflective approach to think critically and make decisions with integrity.
The Need for Leaders to Think Critically With Integrity
All leaders deal with negative thinking and emotional reactions. Many leaders deal with a sense of insecurity at times, others deal with full-blown “Imposture Syndrome”. Either way, many leaders will have self-doubt at times. Others may feel they have a tenuous ability to maintain their authority or power. This can cause them to believe that they need to constantly fight to preserve their position or influence. There are also times when people are susceptible to having their decisions affected by their emotional state. These are just a few examples of common ways that our judgment and thinking can be affected by our mindset. This can cause people to be inconsistent with their choices, have tainted intuition or faulty logic.
This is why the ability to think critically is so important for a leader. Critical thinking is about challenging our assumptions. It allows people to evaluate information that helps make informed, rational decisions. Effective critical thinking allows us to use logic systems or “filters” to process information and choices. When it comes to leadership, integrity is the ideal filter for our thinking and decisions. This critical thinking filter for thought and decisions through integrity is what we call Integrity Leadership.
What Is Integrity Leadership
Integrity Leadership is comprised of 5 domains. These are the actions and elements that when used together define leading with integrity.
The domains are:
Reliable Respect – Providing a fair, consistent, and dependable level of respect to all people, regardless of their position or status. Reliable Respect allows others to always know that your thoughts, efforts, and actions are coming from a place of authenticity and empathy. There is immense value that comes from others being able to depend on your responses and contributions being reliably respectful.
Moral Courage – Being brave enough to do the right thing, even when it is not popular. It is often appealing to sacrifice doing what is right in favor of doing what is easy. This is why it is important to have the courage to be unpopular, make the hard decision, and face the challenge head-on. When others see that you have the courage to make moral choices not merely easy choices, it inspires loyalty and trust.
Honest Acknowledgement – Having the confidence to acknowledge the effort and contributions as well as the perspectives and opinions of others. Being honest and properly recognizing others when they have assisted you and sharing the credit is essential for leading with integrity. As well as being able to honestly acknowledge the value of opinions and perspectives that you may not agree with. It is also being honest in acknowledging your own shortcomings or mistakes. Someone who honestly acknowledges themselves and others inspires accountability for everyone.
Trustworthy Influence – Treating the responsibility and authority that you have been provided in a way that allows others to trust you, and you to trust others. Creating a sense of duty to the obligation of the position you are in and the power you have been provided. Others need to know that the influence you have been provided will be respected and you will not lead them astray. Trustworthy Influence is about how you wield your power and when influence is filtered through integrity you create the type of transparent leadership we all crave.
Empower Others – Valuing those who you are responsible for and providing them what they need to be successful. Integrity Leadership shares many perspectives with Servant Leadership. Employees, and those who you lead, are the priority. Their success is the indication of your success. By being Kind and providing empathy, a leader gives others what they require in order to get the best out of them.
Integrity Leadership provides those tasked with the responsibility of leading others a framework to filter their thoughts, decisions, and actions. It will give them the peace of mind and confidence that they are treating their position with the reverence it deserves.
Integrity is Required for Implementation
Integrity Leadership is a fundamental leadership framework you can use to create success in the implementation of essential business outcomes.
Inclusion – A workplace needs to comply with employee expectations around fairness and equity, as well as create a climate where employees feel psychologically safe. This cannot be possible without integrity in leadership that consistently treats people with respect, uses their influence to create trust, and empowers employees to bring their whole self to work. Learn more about creating inclusive workplaces.
Talent Attract and Retention – Employees need to know that they will be acknowledged for their efforts and encouraged to be their best version of themselves. They need to know that those who lead them are trustworthy and will have their back, even if it is not always easy. Learn more about improving your appeal to the workforce.
Productivity – An organization needs to constantly be pushing to get the best work out of their employees. This happens by empowering them to be their most productive and showing respect to them when change is needed. They also need to trust that leadership is looking out for their best interest and is not taking advantage of their work. Learn more about how to properly insulate your productivity.
Collaboration – When collaboration happens between people or between organizations, there needs to be mutual respect and trust on both sides. The collaborators need to trust that everyone will be treated fairly and that everyone’s efforts will be appropriately recognized. Learn more about what it takes to create a successful collaboration.
The Importance of Integrity in Leadership
The aspects of Integrity Leadership and their importance are well supported and celebrated by academics and leaders of industry.
In fact, there are many statistics to support the importance of Integrity Leadership:
- Seventy-five percent of workers and almost half (46 percent) of CFOs in recent Robert Half Management Resources surveys cited integrity as the most important attribute for business leaders to possess.
- In a recent survey by Georgetown University’s Christine Porath of nearly 20,000 employees worldwide, respondents ranked respect as the most important leadership behavior.
- There is significant evidence to support the positive relationship between a leader’s moral courage and an organization’s culture and employee behavior.
- SurveyMonkey partnered with Bonusly to find out how recognition and retention are related. Out of 1,500 respondents, 63% of employees who are recognized for their contributions are very unlikely to look for a new job.
- The Training Magazine’s Workplace Accountability Study discovered that 9 out of 10 employees cite accountability as one of the top development needs they wanted to see at their organization.
- In a study of over 7,000 employees, those who felt a high level of empowerment in their work were 70% more engaged in their work.
There are also numerous quotes to support the importance of Integrity Leadership:
- The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office. – Dwight D. Eisenhower
- To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity. – Douglas Adams
- Jack Welch calls Moral Courage “candor.” He believes that if you are afraid of candor, then you don’t have the guts to be an effective leader.
- Perhaps the surest test of an individual’s integrity is his refusal to do or say anything that would damage his self-respect. – Thomas S. Monson
- It is true that integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without integrity, you will never be one. – Zig Ziglar
Get Started With Integrity Leadership
When you use the leadership framework of Integrity Leadership, you are making a commitment to being consistent, authentic, and accountable for your actions and choices. This is not an easy path to walk. It requires dedication, self-confidence, and the perspective that as a leader, your primary responsibility is to give your employees what they need to be successful, for better or for worse.
If you commit to Reliable Respect, Moral Courage, Honest Acknowledgement, Trustworthy Influence, and Empower Others you have a strategy to filter most of your big decisions, hard choices, and unclear actions through. Integrity Leadership is not something that you can easily just adopt overnight. To effectively and sustainably incorporate its leadership framework, you will likely need some help. Our implementation team at Roman 3 Operations can coach and support you as you make the decision you will always be proud of, to truly lead with integrity.