Leading with integrity: Why you should work on it NOW

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

In our previous article, we talked about how and why integrity makes it possible for your organisation to last in the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous marketplace. This however is easier said than done. In the business world where winning the approval of others to become successful has been an acceptable norm in most organisations. Maintaining one’s integrity and standing up for what is right, can be an uphill battle for some leaders.

Leaders who struggle with integrity have a hard time sorting out their own opinions and feelings of what’s right and what’s wrong. They do what is most expedient rather than what is right. They tend to respond to the needs of the moment and are easily influenced by others even if they go against their established values. These kinds of leaders are the leaders that won’t last long in the leadership role as their values are not grounded. They are like trees whose roots are shallow – they do not bear much fruit and can easily be uprooted.

On the other hand, leaders who live a life of integrity are like trees whose roots are deeply grounded, they are fruitful and cannot be easily uprooted by any storm. They:

– Act ethically and are above reproach. 
– Do what is right, even if it’s not personally rewarding.
- Admit their own mistakes and confront unethical actions in others.
– Maintain an authentic openness with others about their values, beliefs, feelings, and actions.
– Take tough, principled stands even if they are unpopular.
– Keep their word, commitments and promises.
– Are honest and give true, accurate information.
- Treat all people fairly, no matter their place in the organisation.
– Build trust through their reliability and authenticity.

Living proof of Integrity’s sustaining power

Ann Mulcahy, a former CEO of Xerox corporation – an organisation that has been competing in business world for 106 years- has been a living proof of integrity’s sustaining power.

Shortly after becoming CEO, Ann learned that the company had been having some problems regarding its sustainability. Because of her integrity, Ann chose to tell the organisation’s employees and the public this truth -that Xerox’s business model was unsustainable and that the company would confront reality then make the tough decisions necessary to restore the its competitiveness.

Because of her integrity, Ann Mulcahy gained the trust of Xerox employees. They pulled together, gave their best efforts and returned Xerox to profitability.

Another living proof of integrity’s sustaining power is The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. It was founded on August 1983 and has been competing in the business world for 35 years. The organisation has 20 values that comprise of what is referred to as “The Ritz-Carlton Basics.” Each day, in a brief session called the “Daily Lineup,” supervisors review one of the 20 values with their staff and each Monday all Ritz-Carlton Hotels world-wide celebrate an example of a staff member who went beyond the call of duty to live up to one of the 20 Ritz-Carlton Basics.

As a result of these practices, the organisation maintained a high level of organisational integrity because employees know Ritz-Carton’s values and are more likely to apply them. The Ritz-Carlton’s integrity has gained the organisation major awards bestowed by the hospitality industry and leading consumer organisations.

Indeed, leaders who practice and lead with integrity can bring their organisation to greater heights- leave a lasting mark not only within their organisation but to the world as well.

How about you, do you want to become a leader who leads with integrity? Do you want to become an up stander in a world full of by standers? Do you want to be the leader to bring your organisation to greater heights?

If so, here are four ways to maintain your integrity and demonstrate leadership in difficult situations:

1. Know your values and the principles you feel most strongly about. Write them down and keep them in a visible place. This will help you be constantly reminded when faced with situations where your integrity can be compromised

2. Review your values often. Give them a health check. Ask yourself what you need to do differently to live more genuinely and be true to, and in integrity with, your values and beliefs. Write a paragraph or two, exploring whether your behaviour is consistent with your values

3. Think about how you want to be remembered.

4. Develop your emotional intelligence.

At People Builders we have a team of expert trainers and coaches who can help you and your team develop Integrity. Contact us today for a quick chat to see how we can partner with you to train and coach you and your team.

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