“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
What is INTEGRITY anyway? The dictionary describes it as “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty”. Integrity is our moral compass.
If I could instill only one value to live by, it would be this: Titles, jobs, and friendship will come and go, but integrity is forever. True success is not possible without integrity.
Simply put, INTEGRITY is always doing the right thing, whether someone is looking or not. It takes courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences will be. Building a reputation of integrity takes years to develop. It only takes a second to lose, so never allow yourself to ever do anything that would damage your integrity.
I wish it was that simple. Someone with INTEGRITY knows the right from wrong. Sometimes we wonder if the leaders of the world even know what right is. I am not trying to be flippant with that last statement.
Note to self: Okay, stay positive here Mary!
There is a lot of, maybe too much, opportunity to interpret integrity and the right thing in everyday life. For example, if I believe something is right, and I support or act on it, am I acting with integrity? I would say yes. At the same time, if your beliefs do not match mine – am I still acting with integrity? I believe so, but others may not agree.
Fortunately, in business, it is not as complicated. We have compliance policies and standards to help keep everyone on the right path. One example of a policy is GAAP – generally accepted accounting practice.
Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) refer to the standard framework of guidelines for financial accounting, generally known as accounting standards or standard accounting practice. These include the standards, conventions, and rules that accountants follow in recording and preparing company financial statements.
Other examples of key policies may be your company’s Computer Use, Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, or Gift Acceptance policies. As a leader, are you on solid ground in understanding the intent and the why behind the policy? Are you a living example of the purpose behind each corporate policy?
Policy, laws, and standards are critical to corporate ethics and integrity. The policies clearly state what you can or cannot do and what the ramification will be if you break policy. If a point is not clear, you owe it to yourself and your team to assure you understand the intent or to get clarification. Policy does not eliminate the need for leaders to use common sense and take account of their actions. Rules cannot be written for every circumstance.
Leaders can get into trouble with integrity if the act in ways that are not congruent with their proclaimed values. Let me give a simple example:
A new CIO develops an IT strategy that includes mission, vision, values, and principles without the involvement of his or her IT leadership team. One of the values stated is “We are a true team in which everyone can contribute expertise”, and one of the principles is “We work as a team and communicate openly.” Despite his or her good intent and perhaps perfect strategy, how much integrity has he or her built with his team? Not much, if any. No matter what words this CIO uses, the direct reports and functional teams will find it challenging to believe him.
As leaders, we are accountable for the integrity of our life and behavior. Settling for anything less compromises the trust that we desperately need from others. We must stay true to our values and principles as they will be reflected in our team members’ actions. Only then are we leading with integrity and able to look at ourselves in the mirror with honesty.
Until next time, have an effective week! To further this week’s conversation, schedule time with me and let’s talk!
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