Integrity can be defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. It can also be defined as a state of being whole and undivided. Both these aspects are important in assessing leadership – particularly when we are trying to establish what makes a good leader
Warren Buffett said about hiring leaders: “…you look for three qualities. Integrity, intelligence and energy. If you don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you.” This captures the dilemma – capabilities and drive are essential qualities for a leader – but if harnessed to the wrong purposes they can cause untold damage to their teams – other stakeholders and often, themselves.
As a leader, or if selecting leaders, there are many areas we can reflect on.
– Consistency: being whole and undivided can also be thought of as having a single overarching set of values that are consistently applied no matter what the situation or the specific interaction. This creates a sense of authenticity – what is seen of the person is the real deal – which enables trust.
– Intentionality: recognising that we may sometimes react to situations and behave in ways which are not consistent with our inner compass. This goes back to my earlier discussion on self-awareness and being able to see how our actions may be perceived by others.
– Conflicts of interest: these can arise in many ways – what is important is to recognise them and ensure that the factors influencing a decision are fully understood at a personal level. How this is seen by others is also critical, particularly if they are looking for opportunities to find fault or bias the decision-making process.
As an exercise, ask yourself how you define integrity? How does this impact the way you act as a leader – and the way you expect your team and colleagues to act with you?
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Calum Byers, September 2017
Calum is an executive coach with The Scala Group. He has extensive experience of business transformation, and a background in the technology industry.