Leading with Integrity: 3 Areas for Leaders to Focus

July 1, 20201:35 pm517 views
Leading with Integrity: 3 Areas for Leaders to Focus
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In recent times, the economic crisis and associated meltdowns faced by companies have contributed to an increasingly negative perception of business and industry. Numerous corporate scandals and failures have motivated people to ask questions about the leaders at the forefront of these organisations and their integrity. The public is losing trust in leaders who are not putting words into practice. In short, the integrity of leadership has been cited into question and integrity is considered one of the values most important to the practice of leadership. 

In a study, Jan Duggar described that integrity is more than ethics. It is all about the character of an individual. At the corporate level, integrity refers to the culture, policies and leadership philosophy. The culture of integrity might be far more important than the starting salary in one’s quest for personal and professional fulfilment. Duggar noted that corporations with a culture of integrity will prosper as it can fulfil the following needs: 

  • Offer support to employees through colleagues and processes in place. Consultation with others is seen as a strength rather than a weakness. 
  • Support a work-life balance as it reduces job stress, balances one’s perspective and contributes to job satisfaction. 

See also: Leadership Characteristics to Successfully Manage Crisis

As an essential quality of successful leadership, integrity consists of five elements: 

  • Wholeness, consisting of a manager’s personal values, daily actions and basic organisational aims;
  • Consistency between words and actions, demonstrating consistency with regards to social behaviour; 
  • Consistency in the face of adversity, including consistency in the face of temptation and challenge;
  • Being true to oneself, conceptualised as acting according to one’s own conscience;
  • Morality or ethics, acting in accordance with socially acceptable behaviour, such as honesty, trustworthiness, justice and compassion. 

Challenges to lead with integrity & the solutions 

The challenge of leading with integrity lies in developing integrity itself, acting with integrity, and repairing trust. According to Christie and Kehoe Fellow, these areas are of critical measurements whether a leader could lead with his integrity or not. To understand further, here are brief explanations of these three areas. 

1- Developing integrity 

In this process, leaders should focus on 2 key areas, namely values and standards. Your value must define your character and you as an individual. There are many different ways to explore values. Some of the best ways are to focus on answering these questions: 

  • If you must use one word to describe yourself, what would it be and why? 
  • Think about what this word means to you. If you could break this word down into 3 different categories, what would they be?  
  • If you were to interview yourself, what would be a “deal-breaker”? As in, what would be a characteristic that, if you showed it in the interview, would lead you to be unsuccessful? Conversely, what would be a non-negotiable element of your character that must be present? 
  • Using your responses to the questions above, try to develop an answer to the following question. If you were an organization, what would your vision, mission and values be?

In addition to knowing one’s values, you must have a keen understanding of what your followers, teammates and organisation as a whole. Do whatever you can to discover the standards of integrity that are espoused by those around you. 

2- Acting with integrity 

This step is monumental and is often forgotten in organisations and in leadership. With expectations, one cannot discipline another for not living up to the expected standard without clear communication. The same goes for integrity. You can never be perceived as a leader who has integrity if those around you do not have an understanding of the values that you are expected to act upon. Thus, show your value at every turn and you can successfully achieve the rest goals. 

There are four principles of values-based leadership that are helpful in understanding how to do the right thing, namely self-reflection, balance, true self-confidence, and genuine humility. 

3- Correcting skill-set and mindset

Nobody is perfect and that goes to leaders as well, regardless of their strengths and abilities. As a leader, you are going to misstep and encounter situations in which there is no right course of action. 

When that happens, first and foremost, leaders must admit their mistake. Admit it clearly and confidently, and be specific about the values that you have breached in order to prove to your followers that you know what you have done. You must sacrifice your ego and focus on demonstrating genuine humility and true intentions. 

Here are key points to keep in mind if you want to lead with integrity: keep your word, tell the truth, be transparent, and give without strings attached.

Read also: Ethical and Moral Dilemmas in Leadership (What to Do About It)