Integrity is an important virtue that every conscious leader should aspire to. It comes in many forms, and it’s critical for leaders to embrace it and all its complexity.
Integrity is often defined by what it is not, rather than what it is, for instance, “not lying” or “not misleading others.” I think we define it this way because integrity is so complex – it’s not an all-or-nothing quality, but rather on a continuum with people falling into different places. It’s also unique in that you can spend your entire life building a reputation for integrity but can destroy it in a moment.
When putting integrity into practice, it’s important to consider its many forms: truth-telling, honor, authenticity, courage, and trustworthiness. All of these (and others!) are very important and valuable, but for today I’m going to dive deeper into the first three:
The truth is so powerful, but it’s not always popular. Sometimes people praise you for telling the truth, and other times people would rather not be confronted with an uncomfortable or unwanted truth. That’s why truth-telling can be so difficult!
This is especially true for leaders. Should you tell the truth and risk upset in your organization? Or is it better to keep it to yourself to keep the peace? Although it’s challenging and takes courage, a conscious leader should always strive to be truthful, even when it’s hard.
Truthfulness in leadership not only demands honesty in what you say but also in what you allow yourself to hear and how you choose to respond when someone else is sharing information. If leaders react negatively and condemn the messenger delivering bad news, Team Members will fear telling the truth, which will have a ripple effect and breed dishonesty in your organization’s culture. In addition to creating an environment that welcomes honest conversations, conscious leaders must also model and encourage creative, solution-oriented thinking.
Imagine you’re playing spades and have the opportunity to sneak a glance at your opponent’s card. You know you won’t get caught if you look, but something is telling you that you shouldn’t. This is honor – a deep, inner ethical self-identity that knows when a line is being crossed. Honor is one of the highest forms of integrity and is crucial for conscious leaders. If people in your organization are continually trying to find loopholes or break rules when you aren’t looking, the business cannot thrive. When it comes to honor, leading by example is one of the most important things you can do.
Leaders are role models and are constantly observed by their teams – that’s why it’s crucial for leaders to consistently hold themselves to their morals and values. People are always watching, and leading with honor and integrity will encourage others to do the same, elevating the overall organization and establishing trust in the process.
To read more of my thoughts on how leading by example is pivotal for leaders building a successful team, click here.
A leader with integrity always shows up as his or her authentic self regardless of the circumstances. They are both true to themselves, transparent with others, and don’t hide behind titles. Instead, they openly stay true to their core values, helping to both create and maintain a value-driven organizational culture.
It may sound cliché, but you have to know yourself to be true to yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in everyday life and just go through the motions on autopilot and get out of touch with yourself. Stepping away from your typical day-to-day responsibilities can give you the opportunity to learn more about yourself. For me, this means long-distance hiking. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about yourself when you allow yourself to disconnect on the trail and focus on the beauty around you. Taking the time to do this has allowed me to be a more authentic, loving leader.